'Intelligent' liner could ease pain for amputees

Researchers in the UK have created a device that could help to relieve the pain and discomfort experienced by thousands of lower-limb amputees as a result of poorly fitted prosthetics.

While synthetic liners, worn like a sock over the stump, provide some cushioning against the hard socket, they can result in pressure sores and even ulcers due to the fact that they are not designed for each individual patient Now, an interdisciplinary team at the University of Southampton has created an 'intelligent' liner with embedded pressure sensors that measures the pressure and pulling forces at the interface between a patient's stump and socket. It is hoped that the technology will be available to NHS patients within the next three years. "We're hoping that the development of the intelligent liner will be the first step leading to the 'holy grail' in prosthetics – a fully automatic, self-adjusting smart socket interface for amputees," Dr Jiang said. The intelligent liner will allow doctors to quickly and accurately assess and optimise socket fit at the outset. The wireless interface can also monitor changes to socket fit over time, alerting patients of the need to adjust their socket or activities to prevent ulcers from forming. In the future, the scientists believe the technology could form the basis for other intelligent materials, for example shoe insoles that prevent diabetic foot ulcers, or mattresses and wheelchairs that protect against pressure sores in immobile or elderly patients.