Prosthetic technology is progressing dramatically
On our 21st birthday, our team at HealthCare21 covered the significant advancements within the healthcare sector that occurred over the past 21 years. We will now be posting 21 developments that will be shaping the future of medical communications and healthcare delivery.
17.Prosthetics have progressed dramatically in recent years, with many people choosing to move away from the standard provided prosthetics to highly functioning, technologically advanced limbs. With these types of prosthetics now available on the market, there’s a wide range of options to choose from, especially for people looking to participate in different activities such as driving, swimming and cycling. Here are the top five current advances in prosthetic technology and what’s to come.
1. Consciously controlled limbs
With brain-controlled prosthetics on the horizon, it certainly feels as if we’re reaching the peak age of artificial limbs. This technology is still in the prototype stages, but research at Imperial College London is progressing quickly and we could see the next generation of prosthetic limbs in the very near future. Their aim is to create wearables that use the same brain functions used to control movement, bringing cognitive intelligence into the actual prosthetics and allowing for complete integration.
2. 3D printing
3D printing has not only become a phenomenon within the manufacturing and construction world, but also throughout the prosthetics community. All over the world, 3D printing is allowing for the cost-effective creation of functioning prosthetics, providing both children and adults the opportunity to utilise lightweight, futuristic limbs in everyday life. In some countries, it’s even saving lives. In countries such as Sudan, where children are recruited into guerrilla armies and injured by firearms, landmines and rival groups, these 3D-printed prosthetic limbs are giving these children and teenagers in developing countries the chance to regain some normality in their lives.
3. See-through designs
Art and disability don’t often come together, and although bulky prosthetics and silicone limbs help thousands of people, the aesthetics of these products don’t always match up to their incredible functionality. However, industrial designer William Root has created an innovative and modern prosthetic utilising titanium, which allows him to create intricate and unique designs for each person. Functional and very, very cool.
4. Bionic arms
By utilising electricity and robotics to create movement, bionic arms seem to be something we can only dream of in the future, but they’re already being created today. The state-of-the-art prosthetics use muscle sensors connected to the skin, allowing the user to operate the limb effectively.
5. Nerve detectors
Similar to bionic limbs, nerve detectors control the prosthetic by utilising the user’s mind to think they are actually moving the limb. The technology behind it operates via spinal motor neurons, instead of just muscle as would be the case with a bionic arm. This allows more commands to be detected by the sensors, permitting the prosthetic to move more freely rather than be limited to a smaller amount of flexibility.