While most prosthetic technology developers are focused on creating the fanciest, high-tech prosthetic limbs, prosthetic users know that the simplest but most functional designs are the game-changers. This is where adjustable sockets, which allow users to alter their prosthetic limbs independently, come in.
The idea of a well-fitting prosthetic limb came to Joe Mahon, co-founder of Click Medical, while on a ski chair lift back in February 2009. He took a call from a patient who needed her prosthetic socket adjusted before going out of town. Although he initially didn’t want to leave for what would be a five-minute appointment, Mahon ultimately decided to meet his patient.
While getting ready for his last run, he watched his wife adjust her snowboard boots by turning the wheel on her boots’ Boa ratcheting system until she felt comfortable with it. At that moment, Mahon realized something.
Why don’t prosthetic legs come with a Boa ratcheting system? It would allow prosthetic users to adjust their own device with just a few clicks. Mahon later convinced his wife to let him take the snowboard boots apart to see how the technology worked.
Besides being a practicing prosthetist in the U.S., Mahon also had experience making prosthetic limbs for amputees in Haiti. He began in 2001, and after the 2010 Haiti earthquake, he went every month for ten consecutive months. However, his trips to Haiti always left him frustrated. Whenever he watched a new patient walk out the door with a new prosthetic limb, he knew they had nowhere to go when the device needed adjustments. Incorporating something like the Boa ratcheting system in prosthetic limbs would help solve this problem.
Working on a prototype
Mahon created a prototype, filed a patent, and found willing testers in the next few years. One was Matt Bradley, a top U.S. Paralympian biker who also had a Boa lacing system on his cycling shoe. He was delighted to be able to adjust both his prosthetic leg and shoes without getting off his bike.
While in the testing phase, Mahon also saw how the new system could solve other frustrating but simple problems. For most lower-limb amputees, adjusting their prosthetic socket fit by adding or removing prosthetic socks means finding the nearest bathroom to remove their pants. But with the new design, users can simply reach down, turn the dial, then go on with their day.
Mahon finally met with Boa Technology execs in May 2012 to present the design, and they liked it. Mahon continually modified and improved the design with the company’s approval, making it more user-friendly. He called it the RevoFit adjustable socket. It allowed prosthetic users to transform their regular prosthetic limb into an adjustable one.
Continually refining and retooling
Currently, the technology is produced under Click Medical, a medical device spin-off of Boa Technology. Mahon co-founded the company with Jimmy Capra in 2014.
In November 2021, they released the Click Reel, the latest design upgrade for the dial-based tightening and loosening system. Upon its launch, the adjustment kits were sold to prosthetists and clinics in 41 countries and are included in Click Medical’s three core products—RevoFit, RevoLock, and RevoSurface.
However, Capra, who is also Click Medical's CEO, recently released a statement saying that they received feedback from prosthetists and patients who discovered that the reel did not perform as expected. So, they’re going back to the drawing board to redesign, retool, and verify.
In the same statement, Capra added that patients can still adjust with the RevoLock and RevoFit kits that use the Boa dial. He assured customers that they could still expect the same quality and reliability they have come to depend on for the last seven years.
“While Innovation guides us, adjustability is required to make it work. We remain inspired by the challenge. Look forward to a relaunch of the Click Reel and new kits in early 2023,” Capra said.