Now an App for Fitting ProstheticsNathan Pratt
For well over a hundred years, the process of fitting a prosthetic socket hasn’t changed much. Historically, socket fittings were sculpted from wood. As materials science progressed, prosthetic sockets have become sculpted and fabricated from hard plastics and carbon fiber instead of wood. The human body is dynamic, but conventional sockets remain static and rigid.
Conventional fitting methods are expensive, time consuming and impractical for meeting the needs of amputees around the world. The final product is a socket that is hard, rigid and heavy.
Martin Bionics Founder Jay Martin has walked an unexpected path on his journey toward a breakthrough in socket design. In 2012 Martin was invited by NASA to create a new connection method between exoskeletal robotics and astronauts. That project led to the discovery of counterintuitive new methods for connecting prosthetics to amputees. Instead of using rigid plastics to make traditional “bucket-style” sockets, Martin began exploring the use of fabrics and other dynamic materials.
Martin’s newfound insights became the basis for an entire product line of lightweight, breathable and adjustable sockets. The Socket-less Socket™ is a prosthetic technology that more comfortably conforms to the human body and fits like an athletic sandal instead of a wooden shoe. Martin said, “One of our goals in creating the Socket-less Socket™ was not just to create a new socket design but rather to create a more efficient and effective toolset to enable practitioners to more easily and more successfully fit comfortable sockets.”
These new modular fabric-based sockets are easily assembled with simple hand tools, using components that can be quickly assembled into limit-less configurations. Martin likes to describe the Socket-less Socket™ system as an “Erector Set or Lego Set for prosthetics”. With the ease of fitting these new designs, Martin and his team realized they had created a solution that could meet the needs of the 30 million amputees in developing nations who otherwise don’t have access to prosthetics.
The Martin Bionics team identified a missing link that would be necessary to facilitate the worldwide distribution of their products. In developing nations in particular the necessary equipment to fabricate conventional sockets is rarely available and trained practitioners are even more scarce. It takes years of training for a practitioner to refine the skill set to be able to successfully fit a conventional socket.
Every Socket-less Socket™ fitting can be quantified, as their modularity allows for the socket configuration to be defined. The Martin Bionics team discovered a correlation between defined socket configurations and limb size and length. The team then created a sophisticated algorithm that converts simple limb measurements to a defined socket assembly configuration through the new Socket-Soft™ app.
Socket-Soft™ is an elegantly simple tool with profoundly powerful implications for the worldwide prosthetics industry. Martin stated, “Socket-Soft™ changes the paradigm of how prosthetics are fit. The Socket-Soft™ software and our Socket-less Socket™ training are available free at MartinBionics.com.”
This latest technology from Martin Bionics re-defines how prosthetics are fit for amputees in both developed and developing nations. The patent pending Socket-Soft™ fitting software bridges the gap for the underserved amputee population in developing nations who do not have access to prosthetics. Most amputees in the developing world do not have access to trained practitioners or expensive fabrication equipment needed to make conventional sockets. Socket-Soft™ equips and enables locals to successfully fit our socket technology without the need for formal training or expensive fabrication equipment, providing the underserved amputee populations around the world with a long-lasting comfortable socket.
Here’s how it works. Users of the app simply select the amputation level and side, and then input five basic limb measurements. The algorithm determines and illustrates the Socket-less Socket™ assembly configuration to fit to the user. The Socket-Soft™ app is extremely intuitive and provides clear, step-by-step, picture-based instructions. Socket-Soft™ makes fitting the Socket-less Socket™ technologies even faster and more efficient. The practitioner then simply micro-adjusts the socket on the user for a perfect customized fit.
Martin explains, “We’ve effectively created a self-learning algorithm that continually refines the socket configuration output, and the world has immediate access to it. The more people who use it, the more sophisticated the algorithm becomes.”
A practitioner’s time is more valuable today than it’s ever been. There is a significant need to increase clinical practice efficiency, and conventional fitting processes are simply not sustainable for today’s clinical practice. Martin says, “Our Socket-Soft™ and Socket-less Socket™ technologies enable a practitioner to successfully fit a comfortable prosthetic in one appointment versus multiple appointments over multiple days or weeks with conventional, antiquated fitting methods. Within minutes, the Socket-less Socket™ can be configured using the app and ready to micro-adjust to an amputee.” It gives the practitioner more control over exactly how to make a well-fitting, custom socket for the end user and enables the end user to have a long-lasting, ultra comfortable socket.
Thousands of amputees around the world currently utilize the Martin Bionics socket technologies. The Socket-less Socket™ is Medicare approved and uses similar billing codes as a conventional socket, so the cost to the end user is effectively no different than a rigid conventional socket.”
To learn more about the Socket-Soft™ app, visit MartinBionics.com.