For many years, a soldier’s lost limb meant a life limited to crutches or a wheelchair, and ejection from active service. But a growing number of injuries in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, while dreadful, have led by necessity to developments in prosthetics technology. Some amputee service members have been able to stay on active duty, thanks to experience gained by their doctors.
According to the United States Army, more than two hundred soldiers who have had their limbs amputated (complete loss of a leg, foot, hand or arm) have stayed on active duty since the beginning of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, with some returning to the battlefield. Many others have resumed working in patronage roles behind the lines.
The History of Prosthetics
Prosthetics are artificial body parts used for different purposes. They are mostly custom made to meet the needs of the patients. They help patients restore abilities they have lost as a result of some illness, medical condition, birth defect or accidents.
Prosthetics have been dated back as the Egyptian dynasty of 2750 B.C. while the earliest recorded referenced coming two thousand years later around 500 B.C. when a prisoner is to have reportedly cut off their foot to escape and replaced it with a wooden substitute.
Common Prosthetics for Soldiers
One of the most common prosthetics is the prosthetic leg. This is because there are a lot of diseases and injuries that affect the lower part of the body. For instance, a soldier might lose a leg from rocket-propelled grenades or incoming RPGs during war. To be able to run and walk again, the prosthetic leg is required. They will allow an amputee to walk normally and do other activities as long as they are designed to do such tasks. Most prosthetic legs are made of pylon. This material is long lasting and it does not wear out easily.
The prosthetic arm is a lot more intricate than its leg counterpart because hands do complex activities such as grasping things. Centuries ago, prosthetic arms were not capable of moving according to the will of the user. But thanks to the advancement in technology, they are more real than ever before. Robotic arms are now being made so that they can move according to how the patient wants them to. Though the accuracy is still not the same as a real hand, advances are being pursued.
Some prosthetics are installed internally to support bones that have been damaged inside the body. A good example of this is the hip bone. Around 60 percent of accidents involve hip bone damage. A lot of materials can be used for the hip prosthetic. Some use metal or metal alloys for the complete hip bone while others use a combination of plastics and metal. Nowadays, some people are even using ceramic. Although ceramic is new in the world of prosthetics, it has proven to be one of the best materials that you can use for prosthetics used inside the body.
Proper Prosthetic Care
Building good prosthetic requires a lot of hard work. Proper skin care and limb care is vital to your mobility and health. To avoid bacterial and fungal infections, trapped sweat, abrasions, discomfort and swelling, here are some tips on how to take care of your skin and extremity.
How to Take Care of Your Artificial Limb
- If you have a prosthetic which is replaced below the knee, never sleep or sit with a pillow under the knee. Otherwise, you’ll have a hard time straightening your knee.
- Avoid resting your knee over the handle piece of your crutches.
- Try staying active by doing a lot of stretching exercises. This helps to straighten your knee and hip and increase your overall comfort.
- For an artificial limb that is placed above the knee, it is important not to sleep with it on.
- Your limb tends to swell in hot water as it dangles when you sit or stand in the shower. This will make it hard for you to put it on. That is why showering at night will help avoid swelling by elevating the limb.
- If you have an artificial limb fitted just above your knee, avoid sleeping with it on as much as possible. When the hip is resting on a pillow, this promotes hip flexion or inability to straighten the hip. The best way is to place a pillow between your legs. This will help lengthen the inner thigh muscle and shorten the outer thigh muscle so when you walk you can stand with your feet apart.
Skin Care Tips for Prosthetic Patients
- To avoid bacterial and fungal growth, it is important to wash your prosthetic with some detergent and water.
- Use softening creams if the skin is extremely dry and at risk of cracking.
- Do not use alcohol or unknown chemicals on the limb.
That serves as a short summary of the most common prosthetics being used by soldiers today to lead a normal life.