Transcript - An affordable and flexible prosthetic socket

Transcript - TIDAL Feasibility Projects: An affordable and flexible prosthetic socket, Dr Michael Berthaume, London Southbank University

‘An Affordable and Flexible Prosthetic Socket’, is a TIDAL Network Plus EPSRC-funded project led by myself, Dr. Michael Berthaume and co-investigators Professor Deborah Andrews and Dr. Alex Dickinson. Globally, the number of lower limb amputees is on the rise. Among lower limb amputees, mobility is highly correlated with quality of life, as it enables the prosthetic user to become an active member of their community and to engage in activities such as standing, walking and carrying objects. This mobility additionally increases employability, helping families and promoting both local and global economic growth. The manufacture and delivery of prosthetics in low- and middle-income countries often falls to humanitarian organisations or charities with occasional governmental aid. This limits the number of lower limb amputees who can receive a prosthetic. Many low- and middle-income countries utilise prosthetic technology that uses a hard polypropylene plastic, which requires a trained prosthetist to manufacture the part of the prosthetic which interacts with the amputee which is called the socket. Many lower limb amputees go without prosthetics or are stuck with ill-fitting sockets, as small changes in weight can lead to a bad prosthetic fit. Poor fitting sockets can cause medical problems like skin lesions due to friction between the socket and the residual limb. This can lead to decreased mobility and in extreme situations prosthetic abandonment. The hard polypropylene plastic used to manufacture the socket is additionally not recyclable, and must be imported from foreign countries like Switzerland, creating a large carbon footprint, especially if countries are far away like in Southeast Asia. A flexible lower limb prosthetic socket, not requiring a prosthetist to manufacture, and made from sustainable materials would increase mobility for those with lower limb loss, improving quality of life, decreasing abandonment and, if manufactured from local sustainable materials, decrease carbon footprint. For this project, we will be co-designing and prototyping a flexible weight bearing prosthetic socket with two low- and middle-income countries from Southeast Asia, namely Sri Lanka and Cambodia. Both countries have recently undergone mine-based conflicts which has created a large amputee population. Importantly, both countries have active prosthetic and orthotic centres with which we can collaborate, providing us vital links not only to the local prosthetists, but also the local amputee communities. Such a device as a flexible load bearing prosthetic socket will be difficult to design as there is a tradeoff between the strength needed to support the amputee’s weight as they walk, and the flexibility needed to allow the socket to be altered as the amputee needs. We would like to thank both TIDAL Network Plus and the EPSRC for funding this project and we look forward to seeing what we can deliver.