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History of Prosthetics

Ancient Greece and Rome through the Dark Ages

The earliest proof of prosthetics comes from a 3000-year old Egyptian mummy, who was found with a prosthetic toe made from wood and leather. Roman scholars describe warriors who used wood and iron to fashion artificial legs and arms.

The Dark Ages saw only limited progress. The devices created were used more for cosmetic coverage than for providing function and comfort.

The Renaissance and the Industrial Revolution

In the 1500s, Ambroise Paré, a French surgeon and army barber became the father of modern amputation and prosthetics by fashioning prosthesis with harnesses and knee lock controls. Softer, lighter, and more pliable materials such as leather and paper were introduced.

Some highlights of technologies introduced during the Industrial Revolution include non-locking below knee prosthetics, the “Anglesey leg” supported by catgut tendons, limb conserving surgeries, and use of lighter materials such as aluminum instead of steel.

The U.S. Civil War and the World Wars

One of the major contributions to modern prosthetics was the J.E. Hanger patented “Hanger Limb” in 1871, a fallout of the U.S. Civil War. The company he founded, Hanger Inc., remains a leader in prosthetics to this day.

In contrast, the greater focus on military technology during the two World Wars was not matched with progress in prosthetic technologies. In 1945, the National Academy of Sciences set up the Artificial Limb Program which initiated organized research in the field.

Modern Prosthetics: Leaps and Bounds Ahead

In 1975, inventor Ysidro Martinez, an amputee himself, changed the standard of prosthetics by developing a limb that was designed to improve balance and reduce friction. This ushered a new wave of technological advances designed to provide superior human functionality and comfort.

Today, light and strong materials like carbon fiber have changed the game. Before his fall from grace, Oscar Pistorius was the “Blade Runner”, the first double-leg amputee to compete in a summer Olympic Games in 2012. Additionally, the beginning of 3D printing has introduced a new era of collaborative design.

So, while loss of limb remains a serious matter, modern options are finally allowing people to live normal lives like never before.

Premier Surgical Prosthetic Center in Knoxville is at the leading edge of prosthetic care today. Our team works closely with surgeons  to develop a complete, customized solution for the needs of each individual patient to restore both vitality and function. If you are planning to undergo amputation, or if you are in need of a new prosthesis, call 865-474-7096 or schedule an appointment online with the team at Premier Surgical Prosthetic Center today.

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