2014: Prosthetic fitting in Nairobi
Many people move about their daily lives without giving a second thought to the joints that hold their limbs together; for most amputees, this unconscious movement is a dream. The Biomechatronics group at the MIT Media Lab aims to make this dream a reality. This team has been working on a research project to eliminate ill-fitting sockets in order to improve the comfort level and quality of prostheses for amputees. While in Nairobi, Kenya on a Director’s Fellow program offsite collaboration, members of this research group began transitioning this project from lab work to real-life application. Now, they are moving forward to create methods for fabricating low-cost prosthetic sockets so local Kenyan prosthetists can better serve their patients.
Currently, in developing and developed regions, prosthetic sockets are fabricated using manual plaster casting. This requires an incredible amount of time and skill and, in the end, is uncomfortable for patients and not replicable. The new sockets will be designed using robotic tools to measure tissue properties, allowing for more effective production as well as increased comfort for amputees. Additionally, this new design has the potential to drive down healthcare costs in the long run by decreasing the amount of socket re-fittings.
Media Lab students Bryan Ranger, David Moinina Sengeh, and Arthur Petron have teamed up with director’s fellow Juliana Rotich, co-founder of Ushahidi and the Nairobi iHub, and Peter Ongubo, clinical director and prosthetist at Gateway Prosthetics, to implement this new design methodology in Nairobi, Kenya. They are working on a detailed protocol to translate their research into local techniques with the goal of creating direct and meaningful impact. In addition, they are encouraging other MIT students to join the cause by enrolling in the MIT D-Lab Course: Developing World Prosthetics, co-taught by members of the prosthetic socket design team.