Last week was a busy week for our orthotists, Alan Hews and David Bryan Williams, as they attended OT World 2016. This event is the leading international trade show and world congress for the International Society for Prosthetics and Orthotics. It’s an ideal opportunity for our team to update on the latest scientific advances and medical thinking in our field – so that we can constantly ensure that our patients are benefitting from the most effective treatment possible.
Alan and David are back in clinic now and busy with patients as always – but Alan took a few minutes today to tell us about the highlights of this year’s event.
The Latest Orthotic Manufacturing Techniques
For Alan, there were several themes at OT World that really stood out. “We spent a lot of time exploring new manufacturing techniques,” he says. “Funnily enough, although the biggest companies lead the way in many areas, it’s often when you talk to the smaller companies that you find the most interesting innovations. They’re the ones who can be really flexible in their thinking; they enjoy playing with the technology and that can be where great new ideas emerge. We saw some really interesting work around electronic knee joints which could be used with our KAFOs. We talked to most of the carbon fibre specialists as we’re currently looking for a solution that can impregnate silicon into carbon fibre devices. That’s important because we’re always keen to find ways to make our orthoses more lightweight and comfortable – these issues really matter to the patient wearing them. We think we’ve come up with the beginnings of a solution that will really work for our patients – so that’s exciting.”
The Potential of 3D Printing
Another area that our pair explored in some depth was 3D printing, in particular robotic manufacturing solutions that can potentially make the fitting of orthoses faster and easier for the patient. “This technology is starting to gather pace now,” Alan explains. “So, for example, we saw the latest prototypes for milling machines for robotic arms. It’s now possible to take a 3D scan of a patient and use milling machines to create a duplicate device. Once it’s established, this technique will make fitting much more comfortable for patients, because it’s obviously less invasive to take a 3D scan than a plaster impression – especially when we’re working with children. So we’re following this manufacturing technology with interest.”
Updating on the Latest Orthotic Thinking
OT World is also a chance to share knowledge and expertise through an intensive lecture programme featuring leading experts in the fields of orthotics, prosthetics and physiotherapy. “We attended as many lectures as we could and they reinforced our own views and those of our colleagues at LOC,” says Alan. “That’s very encouraging, because it confirms for us that our approach is very much in line with best practice. We particularly enjoyed the chance to catch up with Elaine Owen MBE, who runs the Elaine Owen Clinic in LOC’s Gait Laboratory. She was invited as a panel host as well as giving her own lecture on gait analysis – which was extremely well received, as you would expect considering how highly respected she is across the world.”
Clearly, OT World was a great success and Alan’s enthusiasm reflects LOC’s dedication to continually improving our services to our patients. “As orthotists, we’re always on the lookout for ways to make treatment more effective,” says Alan. “As well as these kinds of formal opportunities, ideas from the most unexpected places can inspire us. Fundamentally, orthotics is about being able to manipulate the design of the blueprint device to fit your individual patient – because, of course, every patient’s physical make-up is unique. So it’s all about having the right tools in our kit to generate the very best result for every patient we work with.”