South Texas Veterans Health Care System (STVHCS)
The Future of 3D at the South Texas VA
Whoever coined, “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” has not met South Texas VA’s senior prosthetist, Gordon Bosker.
Bosker presented 3-D printing technologies as part of South Texas’ Research Week celebration. The week runs from 13 – 17 May. Several services are presenting their latest research efforts like the exoskeleton, personalized medicine and even the caregiver program.
Bosker is leading the South Texas VA into the new age of prosthetic devices with 3-D printing. In addition to being a certified prosthetist/orthotist, he manages the lab. One of the biggest challenges he faces in the near future is finding enough space for their newest (and third) 3-D printer.
South Texas submitted, and was awarded an innovation grant for the third printer which will enable the lab to print full leg designs. Something not possible before for South Texas Veterans.
Currently they are primarily printing sockets, arch supports, covers and orthotic devices like hand splints. Bosker is looking ahead to possibly printing internal bone structures prior to surgical procedures.
Bosker said the technology isn’t the only change, as he held up a socket cover that sported a woodland print you would find at any hunting store. “Another change that you see in the field is a change of attitude,” said Bosker. “We used to have to make almost exact replicas of legs because they [Veterans] didn’t want you to know they had a prosthetic.” Bosker said today, Veterans are proud of them and they don’t mind showing them off.
Bosker said it’s important to personalize the equipment. “If you make it so they’ll own it, they will use it.”
Besides the expanded capabilities that come from 3-D printing, Bosker said he likes the manpower savings. “There is no more casting, no more pouring casts,” Bosker said. “All of the modifications are done via computer which in turn alleviates the workload to fabricate.” The most important aspect is that the prosthetics team is freed up to see other patients.
After the prosthetics lab receives their training on their newest printer, Gordon says many of the challenges will come from within. “The only limiting factor in the use of 3D printing is us.”