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A Moisture-Absorbing Socket Technology Is in the Works

Posted by Bryan Potok on

Excessive sweating is an issue for numerous prosthetic users. It affects the prosthetic socket fit and contributes to tissue softening from constant exposure to water. It can sometimes even lead to infection, poor hygiene, and discomfort.

Veterans Affairs is testing a moisture-absorbing prosthetic socket.

Experts at the Advanced Platform Technology (APT) Center at the Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center are working together with their colleagues at the University of Chicago and Case Western Reserve University to develop a new socket material that can better absorb and channel the sweat that tends to build up inside your prosthesis. Should this development become available to everyone, it would significantly improve daily life for many prosthesis users.

The team aims to develop a three-layer liner system made of advanced hydrated materials that allow moisture to pass through. The team hopes that the system will eventually replace the traditional water-impermeable silicone liners, which creates a problem by trapping moisture against the prosthetic user’s skin.

How the new material works  

To address this problem, the team aims to develop a system that can absorb and manage sweat faster than normal sweat production without leaking or the material changing in size and stiffness.

The system will also be designed to withstand heavy use, particularly by lower-limb amputees, while maintaining a tight seal along the skin to achieve a good fit.

According to Paul Marasco, Ph.D., a neuroscientist and principal investigator at the APT Center, the hydrated material system is a modified version of silicone-made suction socket liners. He explained that silicone liners are created by a connection of long chains of molecules. The team only needed to change how the molecules connect to make way for tiny channels where sweat can pass through. 

The sweat will then be captured in aerogel layer—another advanced material that works like a sponge. But the difference is this layer of aerogel holds sweat without expanding. Best of all, the water doesn’t get pushed out when the prosthetic user puts weight on the liner.   

From development to commercialization  

The process of developing and testing the advanced socket liner material is multi-faceted. So far, the team has been able to check different designs of the inner wicking or the absorbing and draining layer as well as the middle absorption layer. The latter is responsible for how fast the sweat can be wicked and stored. It also determines the stiffness of the layers.

They have already tested how fast a two-layer system—comprised of the inner wicking and middle absorption layers—wicks away and stores water. The test also determined how water can be removed from the two-layer system.

Another phase of the testing process has seen researchers measure size changes when the two-layer system goes from dry to wet and back to dry.

The testing doesn’t stop with ensuring that the material works as designed. In a different phase of the project, the team aims to examine the bacterial content of daily-use socket liners to determine the bacterial load that is safe on the skin. Thirty-three veterans were tapped to participate in the study.

Finally, the three-layer system will be tested at the end phase of the study. This will involve testing the materials’ sweat-wicking and absorption capabilities and determining the normal range of bacterial load.

After the development phase, the goal is to produce a full-sized prosthetic socket liner for amputee volunteers to test. The research team hopes that this system will be commercially available in two to five years.   

What do you think of this new development? Based on your current use case, would you say that a moisture-absorbing socket liner can make a difference?
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  • I am 50 – A BK amputee since I was eight. I consider myself pretty active, I would absolutely be interested in trying this. Like others, it’s very difficult to finish a 5K without stopping to dry my sleeves and liners

    Don Cardoza on

  • I’ve been a left leg AK amputee for 41 yrs and I have tried everything to help stop the perspiration that accumulates in my socket when the weather gets got and humid. I have had my prosthesis completely fall off because of no suction due to the sweat in the bottom of my socket. I am very interested in finding out what you have found to make this situation, that amputees hate to have to deal with, a better and safer way for all of us to survive having to wear layers of non-breathing materials in order to walk! (I have at least 3 layers—-liner, inside silicone liner and outside carbon fiber) Please keep me informed regarding this much-needed invention! Thank you!!!

    Sheyla. VanDuzer on

  • Hi there, after reading this article and being a double below the knee amputee that has sweating issues this would be a socket I would be very interested in trying. Looking forward to when they become available.

    Linda Hart on

  • This technology isn’t available for 2-5 years?!? Why bother to say anything at his point? That’s just empty hope IMHO. Especially for those of BKA’s who already have supposedly “thermo-reactive” socket liners that don’t perform as advertised. What are you supposed to do if you are a trans-tibial amputee who’s stump sweat so profusely that every time you’re up in your prosthesis, it spins around like a carnival carousel. This despite trying EVERY antiperspirant known to man (The antiperspirant sold on this site is little more than glorified water), several perspiration/sheaths/liners, & shoving extra absorbent material inside our sockets?
    I have been hospitalized for the last 13 days from my wet suspension liner slipping, causing me to fall with my prosthetic leg under my body with a dislocated fracture of my femur. No ones fault really, other than my doctor / prosthetist not maintaining my supplies.
    The news of this technology is great, but to publish it so far in advance.of it actually being available to the end user is a bit insensitive.

    Aunt I-Lean on

  • This will be amazing! As an above knee amputee living in Texas summers are extremely difficult! I can’t wait for this technology to be available.

    Brandi McPherson on

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