The need for improvements
In developed countries, more than 90% of limb amputees achieve their mobility through the use of prostheses. The comfort of a prosthetic limb is a key consideration for both manufacturers and service providers, as they are keen to help the prosthetic limb user – who will have to wear the prosthetic indefinitely – regain a good quality of life.
Medical problems due to the operation of the prosthetic limb are intensely frustrating to the user and reduce the desirability of specific prosthetic devices.
The function of a lower limb prosthetic is highly dependent upon the characteristics and anatomical profile of the residual limb. This is unique to each individual and changes depending on the activities being engaged in by the amputee. A poorly fitting prosthetic socket can cause significant trauma, so it is important to consider how to optimise the fit to maximise the amputee's comfort whilst wearing the limb prosthesis.
Extensive training and experience is required before a prosthetist can capably design a proper load-bearing characteristic for a specific residual limb. Nevertheless, the current design approach of prosthetists is highly subjective, and sockets are made without access to comprehensive information related to the comfort of an amputee, such as friction and moisture levels. This means that the current practice is not only time-consuming, but also highly dependent on the experience of the prosthetist.