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How do Artificial Limbs Work?

By K T Solis
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Several components of artificial limbs work together in order for the devices to function properly. These components are the pylon, the socket, and the suspension system. Since they are made from lightweight material, the user can control the artificial limbs easily.

The artificial limb's framework is called the pylon. In the past, pylon was constructed from metal to provide support for the limb. Today, it is manufactured from carbon-fiber composites. The pylon usually covered by foam and can often be dyed the shade of the user's skin color so that it has a more natural appearance.

The socket is the part of the artificial limb that connects with the patient's residual limb, or limb stump. In order to make the socket more comfortable, it is usually lined with a soft material. Some users may opt to wear several prosthetic socks so that the socket fits better. This is essential since the socket of the artificial limb can irritate the skin if it does not have sufficient padding.

An artificial limb must have a system that keeps the limb attached to the body. This is achieved by means of the suspension system. There are several types of suspension systems that can be used in an artificial limb. Some may use a system of harnesses, belts, sleeves, or straps. Other artificial limbs may merely connect themselves to the patient's residual limb, adhering to the limb by means of suction.

When a patient requires a prosthetic limb, it must be especially created for him. The limbs are made by a prosthetist, a specialist who is fabricates artificial limbs by utilizing his knowledge of anatomy, engineering, and physiology. He must take detailed measurements of the patient's body in order to make an accurate prosthetic limb. Usually, the doctor and prosthetist consult with each other in order to talk about the amputation before it is conducted.

The prosthetist makes a plaster mold of the patient's residual limb several weeks after the surgery is performed. The mold is used to copy the residual limb, and this copy serves as a template for the artificial limb that the prosthetist manufacturers. The prosthetist must take into account the location of the patient's muscles, bones, and tendons in order to make an accurate fit. Once a patient is fitted with an artificial limb, he must begin physical therapy in order to help him build his strength and grow accustomed to the prosthetic. For example, if a patient has an artificial limb designed to help him walk, he will have to undergo extensive rehabilitation to relearn the skill of walking.

A prosthetist may even need to fine-tune the artificial limb as time progresses since the residual limb may reduce in size after swelling has reduced and muscles begin to atrophy. The prosthetist will sometimes have to make a new socket for the device in order to achieve a snugger fit. Young patients will need frequent changes to their devices since their bodies are still growing and changing.

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Discussion Comments
By Glasis — On Mar 16, 2014

There is some very interesting news about how the technology of prosthetics is advancing.

The invention of the 3-D printer is a new step forward in the making of prosthetics.

At one time you would have to be measured for an artificial limb, send out for it to be hand made and wait for it to return. The 3-D printer has just changed this progression.

With this printer, measurements are sent right into a computer that creates the blueprint that is created in the printer.

Someday, when technology advances enough, you will be able to get a high quality alloy artificial limb on the day you walk in to be measured. One custom fit perfectly for your body.

They are already creating smaller prosthetics in 3-D printer. The smaller items are only the beginning. Some day, using technology beyond our reach yet, they may be able to create actual replacement limbs. All from the base technology started with the 3-D printer.

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