Say Goodbye to Plaster Casting and Hello to 3D Scanning

April 13, 2021
Say Goodbye to Plaster Casting and Hello to 3D Scanning

For a podiatrist, plaster casting is more than science — it is a form of art that requires time and effort. Podiatrists spend many hours perfecting this technique.

Plaster casting has always been utilized in a podiatrist’s clinic. It creates a mold of a foot which is then used to manufacture orthotics personalized to each patient. These orthoses have allowed podiatrists to treat patients with foot ailments such as plantar fasciitis, heel spurs, diabetes, arthritis, and walking imbalances resulting from flat feet or high arches. 

In recent years, however, portable 3D scanners, such as the Xtremity 3D System, are being used for non-weight bearing foot imaging.

Generating precise scans within a short amount of time at a low cost is a distinct advantage that provides podiatrists the incentive to replace 3D scanning technology with traditional methods like plaster casting. As a result, an increased number of functional orthoses are now being produced using scans generated from 3D scanners.

As the clinical practice becomes increasingly more complex, practitioners have begun seeking new and advanced options such as 3D scanning to streamline operations while achieving optimal outcomes.

Why do we use 3D foot scanning technology in your custom foot orthotic practice? What are the benefits of this technology?

Diablo Foot and Ankle began incorporating 3D foot scanning technology for orthotics into our practice in 2020. This device from Xtremity 3D and designed by Pal Health Technologies™ provides the most enhanced software for generating a 3D image that is then fabricated custom to you.

We chose to employ 3D scanning technology for things such as custom insoles for diabetic shoes and replacement insoles for existing shoes and for ankle-foot orthoses, and more.

Such technology offers key benefits including ease and speed of use, the ability to archive the scans forever, no mess, and maintenance of device quality in comparison to plaster casting.

Are there any types of orthotic devices that are more conducive to using plaster or other molding methods?

In some cases, such as when it comes to orthotic prescriptions for patients with Charcot arthropathy, using plaster is the more conducive method. Scanning a significant deformity may be adequate but plaster molding catches every crevice, dip, and detail. While one can capture a rocker-bottom deformity on a scan, not all patients with Charcot have this in common.

Multiple cutouts on an accommodative orthotic is another reason to use plaster because it is easier to define these marks with a surgical pen on a cast and this is more difficult with scanning as the scan does not pick up the marker.

If you use 3D scanning technology, do doctors use an iPad to scan patients or do they use an upright scanner for volumetric data capture?

Some doctors may prefer to use a floor scanner with nine built-in cameras while others may choose to use an iPad with a 3D scanner attachment, either option will get the job done.