Prosthetic Sockets: Designing for Function and Comfort

February 6, 2018 | | View Comments

Advancements in medicine, robotics, and 3D-printing have transformed the intersection between the human body and technology. For the researchers and innovators around the world working to improve the field of prosthetics, design plays a critical role in humanizing new technology, allowing people to integrate devices into their lives — not only functionally, but aesthetically as well.

Communicate, Create and Educate

Technology and software design are pushing the boundaries of possibility within the prosthetic limb fabrication industry, today more than ever before. Allowing for the creation of materials at a speed and accuracy that is unprecedented in this fast pace and evolving field, the Surelimb system is thrusting the medical care profession provided to amputees into a more sophisticated and dependable sphere. By addressing issues in the fabrication process, The Surelimb system is helping to create prosthetic sockets that are unparalleled in their ability to offer more movement and comfort to patients.

The socket is the most critical component of a prosthesis. It is the connecting instrument between a patient’s residual limb and their new prosthetic extension. Thus, the socket is essential in the creation of a comfortable and able environment for a prosthetic to cooperate with the residual limb in order to attain mobility. When a socket does not fit properly, a patient can experience pain, sores, blisters or worse.  Improper fit can be caused by limb weight and pressure points generated by an imbalance of weight distribution from the residual limb.

Unprecedented Socket Accuracy

The Surelimb system, developed by Jeffrey Warila at Portland, OR based Eastside Orthotics & Prosthetics, is a socket production technique that blends hands on casting and weight bearing analysis with the precision of computer aided design. Jeffrey recognized early on that each socket is as unique as the person who wears it, and he wanted to develop a technique that would deliver consistent, reproducible, and accurate results. The Surelimb system utilizes cutting edge technology, such as the Biosculptor shape manipulation software, to get precise readings on the residual limb.

 

Eastside Or&Pro is dedicated to helping even the most traditionally challenging of amputee cases. By using the Surelimb technique they ensure that the socket fits comfortably before investing further resources. A traditional cast is made from the residual limb to gauge the general shape the socket must be adapted for. The distinctive step comes next- a digital cast is captured to allow for the software to calculate adjustable measurements of the residual limb that traditional casting is simply not sophisticated enough to predict. By helping the patients understand their unique needs in the present as well as in the future—when the limb predictably changes shape due to muscle build up—the team at Eastside Or&Pro is able to provide optimum care for patients in the long run.

Steve Rosenberg, Prosthetist, Photographer, and Amputee

Many people’s lives have been improved  by the Surelimb system. Steve Rosenberg, Certified Prosthetist at Eastside Or&Pro, attests to the impact the system has on clients through a series of photographs that capture them, their stories, and what led them to the prosthetic clinic. Previously employed as a photojournalist, graphic designer, and color specialist in various fields, Steve follows his patients’ journeys  closely and passionately the best way he knows how—through photography. An amputee himself, Steve is able to provide a first hand observation of the impact the Surelimb system has. By increasing comfort and mobility and reducing pain, Eastside Or&Pro is on the forefront of prosthetic design and care.

 

 

The Surelimb system is exemplary of design that focuses on a particular aspect of socket production and eliminates the guesswork from fabrication. Allowing for more movement, patients have developed more confidence in their limb and regard their prosthesis as a more dependable extension of the body.

 

Images courtesy of Steve Rosenberg


To learn more about Surelimb and other organizations advancing technology in the prosthetic limb fabrication industry, visit Bespoke Bodies: The Design & Craft of Prosthetics, on view at the Center for Contemporary Art & Culture at PNCA in Portland, Oregon from February 15-May 9, 2018.