The loss of a leg is a very tragic and life changing event. Moreover, it is even more so for people in developing countries, where the majority of the world’s amputees live. Why? Because they have fewer resources than people in developed countries and they don’t have affordable solutions for this problem. Up to 95 percent of an estimated 30 million amputees in developing countries don’t have access to prosthetics. A new approach to prosthetic design allows for quick and easy fitting while keeping the costs low.
Prostheses in developed countries are very expensive and need to be adapted to each patient with the help of a health professional. Such skills and infrastructure generally do not exist in developing countries and the costs are beyond the reach of most people, whose incomes may be less than 300 dollars a year.
Organizations like ‘’Bhagwan Mahaveer Viklang Sahayata Samiti ’’, a group based in India that makes a prosthesis called the Jaipur Foot, have tried to suffice the needs. Working both with the organization and the amputees in India, Amos G. Winter (He is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at MIT) imagined a prosthetic foot at a competitive price compared to Jaipur’s original foot. However, what is unique is the new design framework that predicts which prosthesis would best fit a person based on a few attributes, Winter said. The only things you need to design a scan are the weights, the feet size and leg length of the patient. After that, you can use the scan to design the prosthesis.
Using a computer model and data on the forces exerted on the joints of non-disabled limbs, Mr. Winter and his colleagues calculated the movement of a lower leg using a prosthetic foot. They compared this planned movement of a non-disabled person and used a computer algorithm to adjust the geometry and stiffness of the prosthetic foot to fit the gait as much as possible. The ability to predict leg movement and explain why some prosthesis are better than another is very powerful. Traditional prostheses are designed by trial and error, and there is no way to predict and quantify the impact of a foot’s design on its performance.
After testing the foot in India, the researchers teamed up with the Vibram shoemaker to make a foot and tread covering to cover the nylon prosthesis. They will soon start testing the most realistic foot in the coming months, Winter said, hoping to launch it on the market over the next two years.
In short, what Mr. Winter wants is to be able to develop a prosthesis at an affordable price for people living in developing countries like India. Both wealthy and less fortunate individuals need prostheses. However, it is only the wealthier people who can get it and that is very unfair.
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Source : Marcus Woo. Inside Science. 2018. A Better Prosthetic Foot for the Developing World.
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