In 4000 years from the simple wooden prosthesis to bionic prostheses

The medical profession has labelled the prosthesis as an artificial replacement part for limbs, organs or organ parts through functionally similar products. If the prosthesis is outside of the body, in the case of artificial limbs for example, then one speaks of an ectoprosthesis. The spectrum reaches thereby in the distinction of the upper and lower extremities from the arm partial prosthesis to the ultramodern leg prosthesis.

Prostheses have probably been around already a very long time. The first simple prostheses to replace limbs were made 2000 B.C. in ancient Egypt. Newest findings suggest that the first prostheses were made even as much as 1000 years earlier. Even if these early prostheses were not an adequate replacement for a leg or an arm from today’s viewpoint, they were nevertheless for the people of the time an emergency solution which fulfilled at least the minimum requirements.

Continual Improvement

The first modern prostheses were however developed for the numerous mutilated victims of the First and Second World Wars. These early prostheses allowed the wearer to regain some simple movements. On these foundations came a continually improving quality of prostheses and with it an increase in the quality of life of people with a disability. The evolution for example from the wooden leg to prostheses with metal and plastic parts as well as the weight reduction of the prostheses made them much easier to manage which in turn lead to the wearer being much less restricted by his/her prothesis

Prostheses, as moveable as natural limbs

Nowadays artificial an arm can be controlled with electrical impulses. New materials mean that race prostheses can be built; with such a prosthesis 400 metre athlete Oscar Pistorius, despite of an amputated lower leg finished second in the regular South African championships. As well as the functionality of prostheses the cosmetic side is also becoming increasingly important. Research is already a step further: a so called bionic arm can, with the help of numerous small motors move very similarly to a real arm and in the next step researchers are trying to directly control the movement of the prothesis with the brain.

The hope is that more and more prostheses as moveable as natural limbs will become available on the market. What experiences however do people actually have with prostheses? What are the advantages and what are the problems which they connect with them?

Author: (pg), 01.08.2007, translation: PmcC