One of the most common complaints of lower-limb prosthetic users is that their prosthetic socket is uncomfortable. It's a good thing that researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) found a way to personalize prosthetic sockets through FitSocket.
Traditional prosthetic sockets
Traditionally, a prosthetic socket—a cup-shaped device that connects a residual limb to a prosthetic leg—is created by making a plaster cast of the limb. The cast or mold is sculpted and then formed into a socket using carbon fiber and similar materials, which makes the process more expensive. Furthermore, creating a prosthetic socket using this process while focusing on a user's comfort can take up so much time. Many times, prosthetists go back to step one if the prototype socket feels uncomfortable to the user.
The reason behind this time-consuming process lies in the fact that much of prosthetic socket design is art-based. While the shape of your residual limb is considered, it's much harder to account for soft tissue density or firmness when sculpting your cast. This can lead to discomfort and an ill-fitting test socket.
Modern, customized prosthetic sockets
Since the biomechanics of one person's residual limb differs from another person's, creating a more comfortable prosthetic socket calls for personalization. A team of researchers from MIT ventured to make prosthetic sockets that are more comfortable, which led to the creation of FitSocket.
The FitSocket is shaped like a ring and is comprised of 14 actuators that gently prod the residual limb to test how much pressure it takes to push the tissue in. The machine repeats this process to collect data on the rigidity of limb tissue accurately. The data is then used to create a map that shows the varying degrees of stiffness or softness in the tissue of your residual limb.
The result is a more accurate prosthetic socket that effectively supports your body weight based on how much pressure your residual limb can comfortably tolerate.
The video below shows how FitSocket works.
How is your current prosthetic socket? Is it comfortable for you to use? If it isn't, what do you think of technological advancements in prosthetic technology like the FitSocket? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.