Probably most of us have heard about Oscar Pistorius – a man who had his two legs amputated below knees, but still able to run in Olympics. It was possible thanks to the aid of the right prostheses. Production of the artificial limbs has undergone a huge revolution. Nowadays, prosthetics are much more useful and helpful than they used to be in the beginning. They help people regain their previous life and activity, like in the case of two soldiers who after having lost their legs, received prosthetics and went back to the service. This situation constitutes a very optimistic example of how efficiently technology works and is constantly developing for people in need. Losing a limb is as traumatic and depressing as it used to be, yet it is no longer the end of someone’s normal life. Prostheses enable amputees to walk, jump and even run. Not to mention the fact that it helps from the psychological point of view.
There is a general division into BK (below the knee; transtibial) and AK (above the knee; transfemoral) prosthetics. However, there are also other possible disarticulations: of a hip, knee and ankle (with heel preserved).
Improvements of the Socket
Socket is a very important part of a prosthesis – it fixes the artificial limb to the remains of the natural one. It used to be made universal for everyone and then,since 1990s, thanks to Sabolich Prosthetics, it has been made for an individual. They developed the socket so that the weight could be distributed evenly across the existing limb. Their next improvements – bio elastic sockets or sense of feel technology- were aimed at making it possible to AK amputees to run and walk down the stairs. This has created the new necessity – surgeons must have started to carry out the amputation in such a way that it would prepare the limb for the prosthesis.
“Intelligent prosthetics” entered the game at more or less the same time. The innovation provided by Chas. A. Blatchford & Sons, Ltd. used the microchips controlling prosthetic knees. This was the first step to make the prostheses’ movement more natural. Then, in 1998 the first usage of hydraulic and pneumatic control together with the microprocessor enabled to make walking adaptive to different speeds. These Adaptive Prostheses are quite expensive, though.
Not too much costly, adaptable type of a prosthesis. It imitates the movement of a natural knee, enables dynamic movement and calculates angles to adapt to the situation – all these thanks to the usage of a microprocessor and a lithium ion battery.
Flex – Foot
The type enabling patients to run and jump , the one used by Oscar Pistorius. It is made of carbon graphite blades. Their work resembles a spring – the blades bend and store the kinetic energy.
Artificial limbs under control of a brain are not entirely a science – fiction creation now. There is a chance that it will be finally possible. Kevin Warwick proved that it is a matter of the future developments. He inserted electrodes into his median nerve which turned out to be successful in sensing the signals and make Warwick able to control a robotic arm. It copied his movement and gave a touch feedback through the implant.
No matter how much advanced the prosthetic technology is, it is going to go even further. There is some work to be done – achieving full mobility is finally proved to be possible.