Designing and Testing a Novel Custom 3D-Modeled Post-Operative Knee Brace; The Equitable Design of Post-Operative Knee Rehabilitation Protocol

Corona, Madeline, School of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Virginia
Elliott, Travis, EN-Engineering and Society, University of Virginia
Barker, Shannon, EN-Biomed Engr Dept, University of Virginia
Miroulis, George, Icarus Medical Innovations
Johnson, Dave, Icarus Medical Innovations
Scire, Benjamin, Icarus Medical Innovations

Combined, total knee arthroplasty (TKA) and ACL reconstruction surgeries constitute nearly one million surgeries performed annually in the U.S. alone (Hewett et al., 2010). With the demand for total knee replacement surgeries projected to grow by 673 percent to nearly 3.5 million operations by 2030, the need to properly rehabilitate patients after their operation is of high importance (Kurtz et al., 2007). Typical rehabilitation works in stages, beginning with completely restricted movement and employing multiple braces throughout the recovery process that each allow different ranges of motion. Our capstone project was aimed at developing a novel post-operative brace design that acts as a ‘one-stop-shop’ for recovery. This brace will be custom-fit to the patient and will have an adjustable range of motion throughout recovery and adaptable force redistribution intensity at the joint to unload forces on the tibia. Patients who have undergone TKA can lose up to 62% of their quadriceps strength due to the atrophy, and some patients have permanent physiological limitations to their knee’s range of motion, a condition known as knee flexion contracture (KFC), as a result of the long-term immobilization of the joint (Anania et al., 2013; Mizner et al., 2005). Our brace hopes to address the shortcomings of current technology by allowing the patient to exercise their mobility at all stages with assistance from the brace, and foster better recovery of the knee joint following operation.

Post-operative rehabilitation plans are designed to ensure a full and proper recovery for the patient. However, not all rehabilitation plans should look alike, depending on many factors related to the patient and their health. It is important to design a plan for each patient while keeping their age, physical ability, gender, and any other lifestyle or health factors in mind. A recovery plan tailored to the specific needs of the individual patient will make it easier on the physician to accurately monitor progress, while also making it easier on the patient both physically and mentally as they feel that they are making that progress. The STS framework that I will be using to investigate my topic is outlined by Steve Woolgar in his 1990 article “Configuring the user: the case of usability trials” (Woolgar, 1990). The use of this framework will aid me in my analysis to answer this question: How do the current standards of treatment and rehabilitation protocol for patients undergoing knee surgery contribute to an inequitable recovery process for patients of different ages, abilities, and genders, and why is this so when it produces undesirable outcomes for certain individuals? Investigating this question is foundational to the equitable design of the recommendations physicians and physical therapists provide to patients post-operatively.

BS (Bachelor of Science)
Unloading brace, total knee arthroplasty, knee flexion contracture, flexion and extension, rehabilitation, Configuring the User, Steve Woolgar, CAD Design, 3D Printing, Icarus Medical Innovations
Sponsoring Agency:
Icarus Medical Innovations

School of Engineering and Applied Science
Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Engineering
Technical Advisors: Shannon Barker, George Miroulis, Dave Johnson, Benjamin Scire
STS Advisor: Travis Elliott
Technical Team Members: Sabrina Alessi, Tyler Burtner, Liam Kidd, Kyleigh Talomie

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