(282). Start a Artificial Limbs Making Business
Artificial limbs, prosthetic limbs or prostheses are mechanical replacements for missing limbs –arms or legs. When people have the misfortune of losing their arms or legs due to injury, disease or birth defects, artificial limbs help amputees get back to their normal functioning to a certain degree. Cancer, infection and cardiovascular disease brought about by disorders like diabetes are leading illnesses that cause amputation. Serious calamities like the recent earthquake that devastated Haiti bring in their wake thousands of seriously injured people who will need artificial limbs as their wounds begin to heal.
An upper extremity amputation that might result in the loss of the entire arm or a part of it could leave a person ill equipped to perform day to day activities involving the arm such as washing, writing, typing, hugging, lifting objects and so on. Similarly, a lower extremity amputation will have a person missing the whole or a portion of the leg and this could render the person incapable of walking, running and performing other activities involving the lower limbs. Artificial limbs are devised to afford better mobility involving limbs and give people the freedom of functioning without depending on others.
Artificial limbs are of two types—exoskeletal or crustacean and endoskeletal or modular. The Exoskeletal variety has a hard and rigid shell because the walls of the artificial limbs are responsible for the shape as well as the weight transmission. In the endoskeletal type a central shaft covered by a cosmetic covering is used to transmit weight.
Artificial limbs are named according to the level of amputation performed to fit the limbs. The four main names for artificial limbs are:
Transtibial—the artificial limb that replaces the missing part of leg below the knee
Transfemoral—the artificial limb above the knee
Transradial—the artificial limb that replaces the arm below the elbow
Transhumeral—the artificial limb above the elbow
Modern day artificial limbs have moved a long way from the peg legs and cumbersome iron and wooden replacements for missing limbs used in olden days. Advanced surgical procedures enable precise amputations to fit appropriately devised artificial limbs. Lighter materials and improved computer aided designs in artificial limbs along with laser assisted measuring and fitting of the limbs, afford greater degree of flexibility and maneuverability for the user these days.
Ideally artificial limbs must be light, flexible and easily adaptable to the user to permit easy movement. It should also be strong enough to support the body’s weight if they are artificial legs or feet and manipulate objects if they are artificial arms or hands or parts of the same. Artificial limbs basically need to be functional, comfortable, afford a great degree of stability, be cosmetically acceptable, not too expensive, readily available and serviceable and preferably local for quick repairs and adjustments. Artificial limbs are usually made out of materials like willow wood, metallic alloys, fiber and plastic lamination and complex carbon –fiber substances.
Artificial limbs are not manufactured in bulk but most often custom made to suit individual needs. After initial consultation with the amputee, a prosthetist (healthcare professional skilled in making and fitting artificial limbs) and a physiotherapist, a medical doctor prescribes artificial limbs to the amputee. Following the prescription, the person visits the prosthetist to have the artificial limb fitted. Before making the artificial limb the prosthetist evaluates the amputee and takes a digital reading or at least an impression of the remaining part of the natural limb. Computers using a CAD/CAM to design artificial limbs and laser guided measuring and fitting have vastly improved the quality of artificial limbs available for amputees.
The cost of fitting artificial limbs depends on the materials used and the degree of sophistication involved in customizing the product to the user. Depending upon wear and tear, and also if the person gains or loses weight, the artificial limb may have to be replaced once in every 3 or 4 years. While there are artificial limbs that cost over $8000 a piece there are also well designed, low cost, functional ones like the popular Jaipur foot manufactured in India.
The basic features of a typical artificial limb include a custom fitted socket, a pylon or the main framework and the suspension system made up of knee cuffs or belts for attaching the limb to the body. Realistic looking skin is used in some cases to make the limbs look as natural as possible because the amputee is most often very particular about the physical appearance of the artificial limbs and would prefer it to naturally merge with the rest of the body. Modern plastics, better pigments and advanced moulding techniques have made realistic looking artificial limbs available for the amputee.
It is important that artificial limbs or prosthetics be made from lightweight material so the user can control the movement of the limbs comfortably. Replacing the heavy iron and steel pylons of early days, artificial limbs began using lightweight pylons made of metals and alloys such as titanium, aluminium and duralumin. Modern artificial limbs have pylons manufactured from carbon fiber composites usually covered with foam that can be dyed to suit the user’s skin shade for a natural appearance.
The portion of the artificial limb that accommodates the patient’s limb stump is known as the socket. Polypropylene is generally preferred for making the socket and is usually lined with a soft material to make the socket rest more comfortably. Insufficient padding can irritate the skin at the place of contact, hence some users prefer using prosthetic socks made of cotton or soft synthetic materials to help the socket fit better.
Suspension system involves the use of harnesses, belts and straps to connect the artificial limb to the person’s stump. Some artificial limbs can connect to the patient's stump by means of suction.
Artificial limbs need a control system to facilitate movement. For example the upper arm can be controlled through:
Body power — controlled through a ‘cable mechanism’
External power — uses battery energy or myoelectric sensors
Hybrid power — uses a combination of the above two
Myoelectric artificial limbs developed in the 20th century use the technique of moving artificial limbs with electric signals from the person’s arm muscles. It was successfully tried on adults and now children have begun using myoelectric artificial limbs.
After getting an artificial limb, the patient has to become comfortable using the limb in day to day activities. Parallely, the person must be trained by a physiotherapist to do special exercises that will strengthen the muscles moving the artificial limbs. Persons fitted with artificial legs or feet gradually learn to get in and out of bed/ car without help and improve their gait so that they can walk without a limp that reveals their artificial leg.
More than causing a physical disability, an amputation causes the patient to suffer a psychological, economic and social handicap which can be overcome to a certain extent by using artificial limbs. Any successful rehabilitation programme for amputees should follow a regular pattern consisting mainly of pre-amputation counselling, accurate amputation surgery, post amputation care involving psychotherapy, prosthetic fitting and periodic follow up, vocational training if necessary and reintegration into the community for which the community at large has to cooperate wholeheartedly.
A Support group involving other amputees will help those newly fitted with artificial limbs adapt to their situation faster and with greater confidence.
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How to Artificial limbs
An artificial limb is a kind of prosthesis that is used in place of a missing extremity, such as an arm or leg. The type of artificial limb used is determined primarily by the extent of an amputation or loss and location of a missing extremity. Artificial limbs may be needed for a variety of reasons, including disease, accidents, and congenital defects. In recent years, there have been significant advancements in the production of artificial limbs. New plastics and other materials, such as carbon fiber, have allowed artificial limbs to be stronger and lighter, thus reducing the amount of energy needed to use the limb. Additional materials have allowed artificial limbs to look much more realistic as well, which is important to transradial and transhumeral amputees because they are more likely to have an exposed artificial limb.
If you have a temporary socket for a prosthetic limb, you can fabricate a prosthetic leg with plaster, carbon fiber, and nylon. In this free video series, our expert will show you how to make a prosthetic leg with step-by-step instructions, from what tools you need, to pouring plaster, laying carbon fiber, lamination, and final assembly. You'll learn how to apply nylon layers, how to sand a prosthesis socket, how to mix lamination, and also how to seal a prosthetic cast. With the proper tools, techniques, and work ethic, these tips will make the construction of a prosthetic limb a less expensive process.
- Learn what tools are needed for making prostheses and how to prepare them with expert tips on how to make artificial limbs in this free online prostheses video clip.