If you’ve fractured a bone and had to wear a cast or brace, you know how uncomfortable and itchy they can be. While internal devices used in orthopedics and surgery have come a long way in recent decades, the simple cast has largely been lacking in innovation. That is, until now.
San Diego-based company DJO Global contacted us to discuss how their Exos braces are changing the standard of care for external musculoskeletal support and stabilization. They describe their product as the “world’s first dry heat, fully customizable, adjustable, reconformable, waterproof splinting, casting and bracing system.” Composed of three layers of polymers and foam (IP withheld on their website), the Exos braces apparently don’t require stockinette or cotton padding, are radiolucent, and can be removed without the use of cast saws.
Exos connected us with Dr. Matthew Leibman, a partner at Hand Surgery PC in Massachusetts and team hand surgeon for the Boston Red Sox and Boston Bruins, so that we could learn more about his experience with the braces. Leibman fits about 2-3 patients each day with the Exos braces; apparently more than half of the Bruins, and a number of Red Sox players, have used Exos at some point. We spoke with him over the phone about Exos and his experiences with the Red Sox and Bruins. It’s important to mention that during the phone call he confirmed that he has no financial relationship with the company.
Shiv Gaglani, Medgadget: How did you first hear about the Exos braces?
Dr. Matthew Leibman: My colleagues and I were at a Hand Society Meeting a couple of years back and were walking around the exhibit hall. We came across the Exos booth and were intrigued by the braces we saw, and after trying them on ourselves decided to see how our patients liked them back at our practice (Hand Surgery PC) in Massachusetts. We’ve been using them ever since.
Medgadget: About what percentage of patients do you apply the Exos braces to?
Leibman: We haven’t calculated a hard number, but I would estimate that of the 50 percent of patients we see who need some sort of splint, upwards of 25 or 30 percent receive the Exos braces. We use them extremely frequently and for a wide range of patients: from post-operative patients who want to transition out of casts to new patients with acute injuries such as fractured wrists. The versatility is one of the reasons we chose to use them.
Medgadget: What do you find to be the main advantages of the Exos braces?
Leibman: Compared to other off-the-shelf splints, these braces are nice because you can quickly and easily heat them up and mold them while at the same time rely on their durability and rigidity, which is akin to that of a cast. Older off-the-shelf splints are generally not as durable, which can lead to problems especially with patients prone to repeat injuries or poor compliance.
Medgadget: Are there special instructions you have to give your patients?
Leibman: While the instructions are often very patient-specific, the Exos braces can be used either constantly or intermittently, which gives patients the advantage of flexibility, i.e. they can be taken off when the patient takes a shower.
Medgadget: What other technologies are you excited about within your field of hand surgery?
Leibman: There are a lot of really exciting technologies that we’re looking into or already applying, such as wrist and hand implants as well as microsurgery-enabled nerve and tendon grafts.
Medgadget: You’re team hand surgeon for both the Boston Red Sox and the Boston Bruins. How did you get involved with them?
Leibman: It was great timing. I did my fellowship at Harvard where I was involved with the Orthopedic Department. I made connections there and eventually wound up working with my current practice partner, Dr. Mark Belsky. Around the time I began practicing there, the Red Sox was switching up medical staff and their head physician asked me to come aboard as the hand surgery consultant. I’ve been doing that for eight years now. The Bruins story is somewhat similar. A doctor whom I did my fellowship with is head team physician of the Bruins and about five years ago he asked me to come on board with them.
Medgadget: Your bio, though, says you’re from New York. Were there any issues in terms of team allegiance?
Leibman: Haha, fortunately my father was a Brooklyn Dodgers fan so I grew up with no allegiance to the Yankees. Also, once I started working with the Red Sox and Bruins I got to know the players and their families. It’s hard not to root for those guys.
To learn more about the Exos braces, watch the video below:
Flashback: New Generation of Splint Designs from Exos