This past week, CRHP’s Artificial Limbs team and SwissLimbs, a nonprofit organization based in Switzerland, worked together to expand the services offered by the Artificial Limbs Workshop at CRHP. The mission of SwissLimbs is to provide mobility to all people as a fundamental human right, which complements CRHP’s vision of comprehensive health access and empowerment for all people. While these new developments are only in the early stages, we are looking forward to their further development in the coming years.
SwissLimbs provides an array of prosthetic technologies and orthotics to participants across different socio-economic backgrounds. In addition to the above knee and below knee limbs provided, like those at CRHP, myoelectric hands and other devices are used to provide mobility to various individuals. The technology uses plaster casting and plastic (polyurethane) molding to create artificial limbs. The plaster cast is required for the plastic molding, which ensures that each prosthetic limb is customized for each individual. On top of the plaster cast is placed hot plastic, which is molded to the desired shape. A series of adjustments are made to the plastic so that different attachments can be made according to the type of limb required (either a foot, a knee and a foot, or a myoelectric hand). The patient then puts on a sock, tries on the limb, and more adjustments are made to ensure the usability, aesthetic, and comfort of the prosthetic.
CRHP uses slightly different technology, which in large part revolves around the Jaipur Foot. The Jaipur Foot is a rubber foot that can be inserted into a larger aluminum cast that is cut and then pounded into a conical shape that is big enough for the person’s stump to fit inside. The sheet is welded shut and then hammered throughout the sheet to reinforce the metal. Afterwards, a Jaipur Foot is fitted into the end of the aluminum sheet, and the limb is covered with a flesh colored paint. (More information about CRHP’s Artificial Limb Program can be found here).
Learning about the different processes of prosthetic limb production is advantageous as CRHP is constantly revising its techniques to ensure that we are using the most appropriate technology for our communities. From SwissLimbs, we at CRHP are learning more about the technical and customizable aspects of limb production, including the expansion of lower limb production to upper limbs. In particular, we are interested in providing hands to our communities. This would be especially useful during our Surgical Camps, where various patients, such as burn victims, lose functionality of their hands after their accidents. Moving forwards, we will continue to use locally sourced materials and appropriate technology to enable easier access to limbs for everyone. While these processes are quite different, both SwissLimbs and the Artificial Limbs Project provide limbs through ensuring patient-centered care in the hope that these devices can improve a person’s ability to be independent.