How new prosthetics are changing the lives of amputees

Health |  2 min. read
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(Photo credit: Naked Prosthetics website)

Typing an email. Strumming a guitar. Twisting open a bottle cap. Picking a penny off the ground. Our fingers make countless activities possible, so much so that it is easy to take them for granted. Unless, of course, you’ve had any amputated.

Which is more people than you might think. From 1997 to 2016, about 460,000 people in the U.S. sustained finger amputations, according to a 2019 study in the Journal of Hand Surgery Global Online. Among children less than 5 years old, doors were the most common culprit in amputations, the study said. For teens and adults, the power saw was most to blame.

No matter how it happens, the result can make daily living very challenging. But stunning advancements in prosthetics are changing the outcome for many amputees.

Naked Prosthetics, for example, manufactures a new type of prosthetic custom-designed to within millimeters of a patient’s unique amputation and hand structure. It’s quite remarkable – YouTube videos posted by the company show how amputees with most or all of these prosthetic fingers can successfully buckle a watch onto their wrist, light a match, grip an axe handle or turn a water faucet. They are designed for hard labor jobs and built to withstand a 12-16 hour work day. They can even declare – and wage – a proper thumb war.

The devices are customizable to each user, complimenting a person’s unique anatomical structures. They also make them durable enough to hold up with everyday use and comfortable.

Even more important is what these prosthetics prevent from happening. By closely mimicking the normal functioning of the hand, they can help prevent early onset arthritis and other compensation injuries.

Naked Prosthetics offers the PIPDriver, designed for those with amputations of the middle or distal phalanx; the MCPDriver, designed for those with amputations through the proximal phalanx; and the Thumb Driver, which restores opposition and strength in the most important digit of the hand.

The materials that make the innovative prosthetic PIPDriver possible include good-old stainless steel and the petrochemical-based polymer nylon 12, which is made from the petrochemical butadiene, which is also used to make ABS engineered polymers and synthetic rubber. The MCPDriver and ThumbDriver also use stainless steel, but the material for the tips are silicone. Since most of the digital action takes place at the fingertips, silicone provides one of the more natural experiences. That silicone starts with methanol, which is derived from natural gas (aka methane).

With all of these innovations working together, amputees can now have all of their fingers working together. And with full hands, completing important everyday tasks becomes less of a handful.

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