Stratasy's have released a video and case study demonstrating how 3D printing helped Emma Lavelle overcome the limitations of a congenital disorder, allowing her to use her arms for the first time.
At a Philidelphia conference for arthrogryposis multiplex congenita (AMC) families, Emma's mother Megan Lavelle learned through Tariq Rahman, Ph.D, head of pediatric engineering and research, and Whitney Sample, research designer, both from Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children, about the Wilmington Robotic Exoskeleton (WREX), an assistive device made of hinged metal bars and resistance bands. This device enables children with underdeveloped arms to play and feed themselves. Using a Dimension 3D printer, researchers were able to create what Emma calls her: ''magic arms.'' The device is a custom-designed robotic exoskeleton that enables her to conquer greatly limited joint mobility and underdeveloped muscles.
AMC is a non-progressive condition that causes stiff joints and very underdeveloped muscles. Doctors immediately performed surgery and medical experts warned that AMC would prevent Emma from ever experiencing any sort of normalcy. But Emma progressed, slow and steady. As she grew and became able to move about with the help of a walker and it soon became clear that her mind was sharp and her determination on par with her mother’s: “She would get really frustrated when she couldn’t play with things like blocks,” Lavelle said.
Fifteen children now use custom 3D-printed WREX devices. For these patients, Rahman explains: ''the benefits may extend beyond the obvious.'' Prolonged disuse of the arms can sometimes condition children to limited development, affecting cognitive and emotional growth. Doctors and therapists are watching Emma closely for the benefits of earlier arm use.
Emma's approval is a fitting reward for her determined mother and dedicated researchers. Sample says: “To be a part of that little special moment for someone else, can’t help but tug at your heart strings.”
Learn more about Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children, where the WREX was developed, at Nemours.org