New Zealand innovation for wrist fractures

Each year over 18 million people around the world sustain a wrist fracture, with one million in the United States alone. For most patients, this usually means being fitted with a cumbersome plaster cast. Now, there’s a new approach and it’s coming from New Zealand.

Zero-Cast is challenging how clinicians treat wrist fractures.

“We have known about plaster casting for over a century. More recently fibre-casting and bracing treatments for wrist fractures have been used. However, we’ve now come up with something that is a significant improvement on all these treatments,” says Steve Hamilton, Zero-Cast CEO and co-founder.

Plaster casts are heavy, cumbersome, itchy, smelly and uncomfortable. They’re not waterproof and patient complications are common. Splinting and bracing can be easily tampered with and often fails to address pain and stability at the fracture site. Steve’s co-founder, Dr Pranesh Kumar, took up the challenge of designing a tamper-proof, waterproof device that can predictably stabilise a wrist fracture and help improve the patient-experience during treatment.

“In our North Shore lab, Dr Kumar and the team have developed a truly 21st century medical device – lightweight, adjustable, lockable, hygienic and waterproof. It takes just three minutes to apply to the wrist and once fitted onto the patient, their treatment is a vast improvement over other treatments,” says Steve.

“With Zero-Cast Wx, patients continue their normal lives without worrying about bulky, heavy plaster casts. They can shower, clothes fit over it easily, there’s far less likelihood of joint stiffness and it permits faster rehabilitation for the patient. Finally, we have a technology that offers a big leap ahead of what plaster casting can offer.”

Getting to market has thrown up some challenges along the way, particularly when it comes to the US. “In the US, we have to navigate a complex reimbursement system to ensure an adequate financial return for all parties and minimal outlay for the patient. Attempting such complex tasks from New Zealand is not always easy,” says Steve. Zero-Cast was recently granted a Medicare HCPCS reimbursement code, critical for any chance of success in the US market.

Steve also acknowledges that convincing clinicians to put aside the old approach to wrist fracture treatment isn’t always easy.

“Clinicians don’t quickly cast aside century old treatments and technologies. Old methods are not easily supplanted by new technology and we recognise this as we introduce a radical new approach to fracture repair”.

Steve says clinical interest is building and sales are starting to ramp up. “Our immediate goal is to expand sales in a controlled release across New Zealand, Australia and the US. Our medium-term goal is to transition from this single product to offering a wider range of products that follow a similar philosophy/style, all built around the Zero-Cast brand language.”

The company works very closely with various universities and selected hospitals as they pursue research to support their product pipeline. Zero-Cast has close relationships with AUT, Auckland Bioengineering Institute, Callaghan Innovation, the NZ Medical Technology Association, the MedTech CoRE and CMDT.

It uses New Zealand companies to contract manufacture and assemble the finished products ready for local-use or export. EBOS sells and promotes Zero-Cast in the New Zealand and Australian markets. Zero-Cast has formal consultancy agreements with a number of expert clinicians both in New Zealand and off-shore, including Professor Melvin Rosenwasser, from Columbia University, who is hand-surgeon to the New York Yankees.

By Prue Scott

ZeroCast in action