LAS VEGAS — The development of industry-wide standards for prosthetic sockets could improve strength and variability, according to Maria Gerschutz, PhD, an applied research engineer for WillowWood, who presented her research at the Hanger Education Fair and National Meeting, here.

“Most prosthetic sockets aren’t subjected to any standards, and rightfully so, because they are custom products,” Gerschutz said. “But the strength and variability of the material and products are unknown.”

Gerschutz and her colleagues evaluated the static strength and variability of various sockets in order to provide a comparison level and foundation for the development of future advancement. They examined diagnostic, copolymer and laminated sockets from nine different facilities, including three central fabrication facilities, three private facilities and three military/veterans affairs hospitals. In total, 98 sockets were evaluated.

The researchers found that the range of materials and methods used, inconsistency of these techniques and socket thickness all contributed to variability for thermoplastic sockets. In laminated sockets, the amount of vacuum pull used during construction, type and amount of resin and the type of fiber reinforcement were among the biggest contributors to variability.

“The study showed that there is a large variability in socket production and socket strength,” Gerschutz said. “But hopefully this can serve as a foundation for future investigation.”

According to Gerschutz, socket fabrication could be improved by developing industry-wide best practices, optimizing practices to reduce variability and evaluating new materials and processes with improved strength properties.

For more information:

Gerschutz M. Industry-wide evaluation of prosthetic socket strength. Presented at The Hanger Education Fair and National Meeting; Feb.5-7, 2013; Las Vegas.

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