World first to help ease pain for amputees

10:45am Tuesday 15th April 2014

By Melanie Adams

SOUTHAMPTON experts have developed a world first that could ease pain for thousands of amputees and prevent dangerous sores.

Researchers from the University of Southampton have invented a new pressure sensor which is fitted between the stump and the prosthetic limb to alert the amputee of tissue damage.

This “intelligent” liner for prosthetics will urge the wearer to take action - which could mean putting on an extra sock for padding because the stump can change shape during the day or it could mean a visit to a clinic.

The device could be available to NHS patients in as little as three years and if successful it could be extended for use by others at risk of sores, such as wheel-chair users and those confined to their beds.

The sensors are taped to a cushioned sock which is placed into the prosthetic socket and monitors the pressure and pulling forces between the patient's stump and the socket.

Excess press can cause tissues damage, which can lead to painful sores.

Dr Liudi Jiang, who invented the device with a team from the university, said: “Socket fit is the single biggest factor determining whether prosthesis will be successful for a patient.

“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.”

There are 50,000 lower-limb amputees in the UK, most of whom use artificial limbs that are attached to the residual limb through a socket. No two stumps are exactly the same shape and size and even an individual's stump can change shape over the course of a single day.

Professor Dan Bader, an expert in tissue biomechanics who was part of the team, added: “Mechanical forces during physical activities of the amputee can lead to breakdown of soft tissues at the stump, which can prove very difficult to heal and will inevitably result in distress for the patient.”

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