Simpler, cheaper way to make and fit prosthetics developed

St. Louis, Oct. 25, 2003 -- Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have developed an easier and less expensive way to make sockets for prosthetic limbs.

The study's principal investigator, Jack R. Engsberg, Ph.D., will receive the Howard R. Thranhardt Lecture Honorarium for this work and present preliminary findings at the National Assembly of the American Orthotic and Prosthetic Association at 11 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 25, in Reno, Nev.

"What we're doing is an entirely different process from the traditional way of making prosthetic sockets," says Engsberg, who is a research associate professor of neurological surgery.

The new process may expedite and simplify the procedure for the estimated 400,000 Americans with an amputated limb. According to Engsberg, it also could be particularly useful in other countries, where landmines are responsible for millions of amputations, most of which occur in areas that do not have the financial or medical resources to fit prosthetics.

"We think that eventually our new technique could be taught throughout the world and would be cheaper and easier to implement," he says.

The most important and difficult part of making a prosthetic limb is the socket, the part of the prosthetic that fits against the stump of the remaining part of the limb. Traditionally, this requires the expertise of a specially trained prosthetist. A plaster cast of the stump is made and then filled with plaster to create a model. The model is then used to make a socket, which is adjusted to optimize its ability to contour to the individual's stump and to comfortably bear the weight of that individual. Sockets typically require several fittings and adjustments, including production of several test sockets before a final product is achieved.

Several approaches to improving this procedure are under investigation, but most are more complicated and expensive than the traditional approach

Contact: Gila Z. Reckess
Washington University School of Medicine

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