The History of Prosthetic Technology
Prosthetics socket technology has a very long and complex history, dating back to the Egyptian empire. It had times of rapid technological growth and periods when the same style of prosthetics was worn over thousands of years. However, in modern history, the presence of prosthetic technology has expanded exponentially, such as with 3D printing and even showing up in the fashion industry!
The earliest known prosthetic, a big toe created for an Egyptian woman, has been traced back to the Egyptian empire and is said to have been created anywhere from 3000 B.C. to 1000 B.C. The other prosthetics found around this time period are usually made of fiber and were worn more for looks than function. However, these prosthetics were considered impressive for their time period.
The earliest prosthetic limb used for a specific purpose was a prosthetic hand created for General Marcus Sergius. He was the first documented user of a prosthesis, and an iron arm was created to help him hold his shield so he could return to battle. Most of the other prosthetics created from 424 B.C. to 1 B.C. were made with metal and were used only by knights. Prosthetic technology did not improve very much in the following millennia. The peg leg and hook hand were both invented, but they were used mainly by the wealthy. Knights used heavy metal arms to hold their swords or shields and wore iron legs that were created to fit into the stirrups of their saddles.
However, in the 1500s, technology started to improve rapidly. There was an increase in prosthetic arm technology and multiple cases were documented around the world of amputees using their prosthetic arm to perform menial tasks. In the mid-1500s, doctors began to use more modern procedures to perform surgery on amputees, and prosthetics began to be made of leather and paper rather than metal to lighten the load amputees had to carry.
Prosthetic technology continued to improve through the 1800s. The prosthetics that were created began to resemble modern day limbs. Ambroise Paré was a leader in the field, creating the fixed foot and hinged hands that allowed for more joint movement. He also modified the techniques that surgeons used to
remove limbs, allowing them to create a limb that was more receptive to a prosthetic. Ankle amputations began to be performed below the knee rather than at the thigh, giving amputees a higher chance of walking again. There was a rapid advancement throughout the entire field as more natural looking prosthetics were designed and considered effort was made to emulate natural human movements.
The 1900s through today have shown the largest growth in the prosthetic industry, with new technology being created every day. In the early 1900s, the first aluminum prosthetic was created, the American Orthotic & Prosthetic Association was created, and the first suction sock was invented. Technology has only been improving since then and modern amputees have access to prosthetic limbs that Ancient Egyptians, for example, could never have even imagined. One of these incredible technologies that have been recently invented is adjustable sockets. Adjustable sockets give amputees the ability to make on-demand micro-modifications to the fit of the prosthetic as needed. The volume of a residual limb fluctuates multiple times throughout the day and there has never been a faster and more convenient solution to accommodate for those changes. This kind of technology wouldn’t be possible without thousands of years of advancement. Watch the video below to learn more about what difference adjustable socket technology makes!