Competition Awards Post-Op Prosthesis Innovation

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The Limitless Socket team members.Photograph by Kathy Foster courtesy of UNM.

Students from the University of New Mexico (UNM) received a $50,000 award to help prototype and patent a continuously adaptable post-operative transtibial prosthetic socket. The socket is intended to be used immediately after surgery until the patient is fitted with a final prosthesis and could shorten the time to final prosthesis fitting, according to the team. The prosthesis, the Limitless Socket, can be easily disassembled in response to volume and shape changes and to monitor the amputation site, according to the research team.

The 2017 UNM Bio Design Program competition's theme was addressing current barriers in physical medicine and rehabilitation. The team included chemical engineering students Victoria Lujan and Jane Nguyen, mechanical engineering student Evan Hagin, and Matthew Rush, a PhD candidate in nanoscience and microsystems engineering. The competition was part of a joint School of Engineering and Health Sciences Center (HSC) class led by Christina Salas, PhD, an assistant professor with joint appointments in the UNM Department of Orthopaedics & Rehabilitation and the School of Engineering. The HSC's Clinical & Translational Science Center and the School of Engineering each contributed $25,000 for the prize.

"Right now, it can take three to six months for a patient to be up and using a prosthesis," Salas told the Albuquerque Journal. "We are looking at getting people up on this socket in weeks."

A benefit of the socket's design is that it reduces direct contact with the residual limb.

"This crosses over the knee, transferring the load to the knee and the femur," Salas told the paper. "That enables the patient to be up much sooner and using the prosthetic, and the sooner you are up and around, the better it is for healing and mobility. The limb is suspended in a sort of net basket that allows for the detection of swelling and the draining of fluid."

Editor's note: This story was adapted from materials provided by UNM.