No matter how sophisticated a back brace may be, it’s not going to correct scoliosis if a patient doesn’t wear it. And given the awkward, torture-contraption look of most braces available, kids and teens with scoliosis—sentenced to two to three years of brace-wearing—often do their best to avoid them. Untreated, scoliosis can lead to painful spine surgery down the road.
We hope Bespoke, a new 3-D printed back brace, will make huge strides in fixing this problem. It's more comfortable—and more fashionable—than any brace we've seen. Developed by 3D Systems in collaboration with a team of doctors, it's custom-made to fit each patient. It can be laser-printed with cool patterns and is less bulky than other braces under clothing—it resembles a futuristic lacy girdle.
The company recently ran a pilot program with the brace, at the UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital, in Oakland, California. They are finally ready to release the design to the public. "All of our children wanted the Bespoke Brace," developer Dr. James Policy said in a statement on the company’s website. "We had a small 3D-printed scale model of the brace on my desk. Once the children saw this, they all wanted one. I’ve never seen children respond so positively to a brace. It was so cool that once they were fitted, many were showing the brace off to their friends."
This might be the case for younger kids—remember how glittery, colorful retainers somehow made orthodontia seem cool in elementary school? But it'll be a harder sell for self-conscious, trend-obsessed teens. Still, it's a big improvement on the braces that kids were once stuck with.