3D Printouts Could Encourage Patients with Arthritis to Take Their Medication

FEBRUARY 24, 2017
Dava Stewart
rheumatology, rheumatoid arthritis, dermatology, psoriatic arthritis, 3D, joints, drug adherence

Patients may gain understanding of the impact of arthritis on their joints from arthro-haptic 3D printed prototypes of affected finger joints, according to a recent German study.

Led by Arnd Kleyer, MD, of the Department of Internal Medicine 3, Rheumatology and Immunology, at Friedrich-Alexander University in Erlangen, Germany, and colleagues.

Both rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and psoriatic arthritis (PsA) can lead to the destruction of joints and long-term disability when not properly treated. However, the results of recent studies show that patients adhere poorly to taking the most effective drugs to treat these diseases.

Arnd Kleyer, MD, of the Department of Internal Medicine 3, Rheumatology and Immunology, at Friedrich-Alexander University in Erlangen, Germany, led his colleagues to research this area further. They said that although there are multiple reasons patients do not take the medications, “it is mainly influenced by medical beliefs and lack of understanding the disease.”

Some tools, such as brochures and smartphone apps, exist to help clinicians educate patients. Unfortunately, most have not be scientifically evaluated or tested to see if the strategies actually improve adherence. Clinicians use radiographic techniques to monitor disease progress and changes in the bones, but provide only a two-dimensional image.

The researchers wanted to find out if 3D printed prototypes of both arthritic and healthy joints, combined with a video describing erosions and disease progression, could help patients better understand the disease—and hopefully improve adherence to their drug regimens. They used 3D printouts of joints from healthy people as well as from patients at different stages of RA, “ranging from erosive, destructive disease to non-erosive bone alterations.”

The finger joint 3D printouts were shown to 40 people—15 with RA, 15 with PsA, and 10 healthy controls. The participants were then interviewed to determine the participants’ thoughts on various types of therapies, as well as their reactions to the prototypes and video. They were also shown plain pictures of the joints, which many of them had seen before, for comparison.

The arthro-haptic experience had an emotional impact on the patients, the team observed.



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