Low-Cost Prosthetic Solutions For Above-The-Elbow Amputees Living in Poverty

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2011 - $32,700

While approximately 80% of the world’s amputees live in developing nations, only 2% of the people in that segment have access to appropriate prosthetic care and rehabilitation. There are two primary reasons for this: the custom-fit sockets typically provided to amputees are very expensive, costing up to $5,000, and they are not geared toward the agricultural- and labor-oriented contexts of the developing world. Additionally, due to the fact that 90% of the world’s amputees are missing a lower extremity instead of an upper extremity, the majority of prosthetics research has been applied to leg development and not toward arms, thus leaving a gap in upper-extremity devices.

This grant involves three entities in producing an inexpensive prosthetic arm for above-the-elbow amputees in India. The three entities are: 1) a year-long, interdisciplinary, project-based course at UIUC, including international immersion with a team devoted to this topic; 2) Illini Prosthetic Technologies (IPT), a non-profit organization founded by University of Illinois engineering students; and 3) Marketplace Literacy Communities, a non-profit organization in South India. IPT, which grew out of a design course at UIUC, has been working for over three years to develop an affordable and appropriate below-the-elbow prosthetic arm for amputees in Guatemala. This new device will build on this technology, called OpenSocket™, and take IPT in a new direction by exploring above-the-elbow prosthetic arms in a new geographical setting.