Intelligent Prosthetic Liners Could Ease Pain

A new prosthetic liner being developed at the University of Southampton, England, could help relieve pain and discomfort for people who use lower-limb prosthetic devices. An interdisciplinary team is developing a prototype of the first "intelligent" prosthetic liner with integrated pressure sensors. The sensors for the device, invented by University of Southampton Senior Lecturer Liudi Jiang, BEng, MEng, PhD, MAIAA, and the university team, measure the pressure and pulling forces at the interface between a patient's residual limb and the prosthetic socket.

"Socket fit is the single biggest factor determining whether [the] prosthesis will be successful for a patient," said Jiang. "If we had a simple way to accurately measure the load at the socket-stump interface and determine the best possible fit for that limb, it would completely transform the socket fit experience for amputees. We're hoping that the development of the intelligent liner will be the first step leading to the 'holy grail' in prosthetics-a fully automatic, self-adjusting smart socket interface for amputees."

The intelligent liner will allow clinicians to quickly and accurately assess and optimize socket fit, Jiang and her colleagues said. The wireless interface will also monitor changes to socket fit over time, alerting patients of the need to adjust their socket or activities to prevent ulcers from forming. The team believes that the technology could form the basis for other intelligent materials, such as shoe insoles to prevent diabetes-related foot ulcers, or mattresses and wheelchairs that protect against pressure sores in patients who are immobile or elderly.

The Southampton team will work with Chas A Blatchford & Sons, headquartered in Basingstoke, England, to fine-tune the design and develop the sensor into a range of thin prosthetic liners to fit sockets of any shape and size. "This is a tremendously exciting project which has the potential to transform socket technology as a whole in lower-limb prosthetics," said David Moser, PhD, Blatchford's head of research, and principle research engineer. "We anticipate that from the development of this technology, we will reach a new level of understanding and uncover the as yet unclear 'dynamic' qualities of limb loading and socket fit. This step is crucial for the development of the next generation of socket technology products and future artificial limb controls."

Editor's note: This story was adapted from materials provided by the University of Southampton.