There was a time when those who had to have an arm, leg or hand amputated that the prosthetic limb the individual received would not really be functional. Thankfully, over the years, advances in technology has helped to create functional prosthetics to those who needed them. Welcome to the new age of prosthetic’s.
Whether it is due to an illness or injury, roughly two million Americans had to have a leg, or an arm amputated, and a lot of these individuals opted to wear a prosthetic limb. Over a decade ago, most prosthetic limbs that were available were considered fragile or clunky. However, technology with prosthetics has advanced through the years thanks to a great deal of research acquired from caring for American soldiers wounded in Afghanistan and Iraq; this has led to the creation of robotic ankles and knees that can adapt to activity as well as to terrain.
Those needing leg prosthetics can sky dive, run marathons and even scale mountains. Also, advances have led to a bionic arm that responds to the user’s thoughts that enables it to mimic practically all of the movements made as if it was a real hand.
Last year, an article appeared on the Horton’s Orthotics and Prosthetics website that looked at the development of prosthetic limbs. Researchers believed that the future looked bright for the development of prosthetic limbs while acknowledged how the industry has evolved over time. Both upper and lower amputee individuals had access to prosthetics that, in the beginning, were not very usable especially for athletes; however, looks and performance has vastly improved from what was originally used.
Advancements in Prosthetic Limbs Throughout the Years
Originally, prosthetic limbs were not necessary pleasant to look at and functionality was limited, especially for those who were athletic. Over time, prosthetics used today are far more advanced thanks to research done with prosthetic limb technology. Athletes who use prosthetics have seen improved performance and a reduction in the risk of injury. Nevertheless, researchers continue to search for ways on improving the functionality and comfort of these devices while remembering how far this field has advanced.
When looking back at how prosthetics have evolved over the decades, one of the more notable developments that was accomplished recently involved the microprocessor-controlled joint. First created back in the 1990s within the United States, it made it possible for the joint in a prosthetic to automatically conform to the unique needs of an individual.
One example of this would be how a prosthetic leg is able to utilize a microprocessor-controlled joint that automatically conforms to the specific walking patterns of an individual; this allows for a more natural movement of the leg while increasing the overall mobility of an amputee.
Another advancement in prosthetic limbs involves the materials that are used, which has made them over time lighter in weight; this makes it easier for the patient to operate it. The past several years has allowed these artificial limbs to be covered with a skin that appears to look like human flesh. This does provide what looks like a natural appearance where, in most ways, can make them indistinguishable from a natural limb to the untrained eye.
The Promise of New Innovations and Technology
The potential for new advancements in prosthetic limb technology are being promised by researchers, such as Johns Hopkins University has developed in recent years a prosthetic arm that can be controlled through the use of the individual’s mind. Specifically, signals from the brain are sent directly into the prosthetic to manipulate up to twenty-six joints; unfortunately, the technology is not totally available yet in the market, but the use of this looks promising.
Prosthetic hands, known as myoelectric prosthetics, are vastly improving to where they can truly mimic the functions of a natural limb of a human. The future can expect prosthetics to have more natural movements to them, which means amputees will have less of a struggle with awkward and bulky motions from the prostheses.
Prosthetics have improved vastly over the decades to where their ability to feel and look like human limbs keeps getting closer and closer to the natural thing. Ultimately, the goal is not to just get a prosthetic limb to look and feel like a real limb but for the brain to manipulate the prosthetic as a real limb would. This would be a huge step in improving the quality of life of an amputee; thus, welcome to the new age of prosthetics.