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Prosthetic treatment and advancement in prosthetic technology can be traced back to the Fifth Egyptian Dynasty (2750 to 2625 BC). Archaeologists discovered the oldest known splint that can be designated to that period. The earliest written reference to an artificial limb was recorded in about 500 BC, when Herodotus described a prisoner escaping from his chains, by the action of cutting off his foot, to be replaced later with a substitute made of wood.
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The Middle Ages
Frenchman, official Royal surgeon to the Kings Henry II, Francis II, Charles IX and Henry III, is well-known for introducing amputation as a means of saving life in about 1529. This was definitely a valuable contribution to future advancements in prosthetic technology! Ambroise Paré also began developing prosthetic limbs in an innovative and scientific way.
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The Nineteenth Century
The advent of military conflicts, such as the Napoleonic Wars, increased the use of prosthetic limbs due to the high number of infantry amputees. The eighteen hundreds and the American Civil War inspired J.E. Hanger to create a limb from whittled barrel staves, forming an Orthotics company, which still provides valuable service today. It also saw Dubois L. Parmelee of New York fasten a limb to a body socket by using atmospheric pressure. Albert Winkley invented a “slip socket" to enable the reduction of friction between the residual stump of the limb and the prosthetic device. Another advancement in prosthetic technology belongs to Doctor Vanghetti with the invention of an artificial limb that was able to be moved by the contracting of muscles in 1898.
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The Twentieth Century
Following the end of World War II, extensive research was undertaken to improve prosthetic devices and the 1970s saw the founding of the American Academy of Orthotists and Prosthetists for advanced studies. A research incentive called the Artificial Limb Program was supported by America and funded by the Veterans Administration that subsequently evolved into the American Orthotic and Prosthetic Association.
Since the initiatives of the eighteen hundreds, various advancements in prosthetic technology have been made. Nowadays, “above knee" amputees are able to be fitted with a “C-leg", or “Power Knee", operated by a micro-processor. This device is self-synchronizing with the motion of the still-intact leg. For “below knee" amputees, there is a “Proprio foot" with a motorized ankle, controlled by sensor technology. A prosthetic device known as “Power Foot" is provided with a self sustaining robotic system; while the “iLimb Hand" uses electric signals from existing muscles, thereby enabling users to operate in a life-like capacity.
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Into The Future
Advancement in prosthetic technology has been recently brought about by a recognized Scottish prosthetics engineer named David Gow. He invented the first prosthetic hand replacement that enables all five fingers to operate by being independently powered. The device is dependent on the traditional “Myoelectric" principles, while at the same time making use of mechanical advances. The fingers of the bionic arm are individually motorized and are able to move, bend and grasp very much like a normal hand. Connecting wires are directed to the amputee's nerves while the signals are relayed from the brain - just like the normal hand.
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References and Image Credits