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A View Through History


Submitted by Comprehensive Prosthetics & Orthotics

Ancient literature contains references to prosthetic limbs in stories and poems, but some of the earliest historical accounts of prosthetic limb use were recorded in Greek and Roman times. For instance, there’s the historical account of Marcus Sergius, a Roman general who lost his right hand while battling in the second Punic War. Famously, he had a replacement hand fashioned out of iron for the purpose of holding his shield, and was able to return to battle and continue fighting.In the year 2000, researchers in Cairo, Egypt, unearthed what they believe to be the oldest documented artificial body part — a prosthetic toe made of wood and leather. The device, found attached to the nearly 3,000-year-old mummified remains of an Egyptian noblewoman, is a good representation of how little prosthetic limbs have changed throughout history. With the exception of very recent times, prosthetic devices have been constructed of basic materials, such as wood and metal, and held to the body with leather attachments.

Most famously attributed to seafaring pirates, peglegs with wooden cores and metal hands shaped into hooks have actually been the prosthetic standard throughout much of history. While Hollywood has exaggerated their use of hooks and peglegs, pirates did sometimes rely on these types of prostheses. Materials required for these devices could be scavenged from a common pirate ship; however, a trained doctor would have been rare. Instead, the ship’s cook typically performed amputation surgeries, albeit with poor success rates.

In the early part of the 16th century, French military doctor, Ambroise Paré, also famous for his work with amputation techniques, contributed some of the first major advances in prosthetics seen for many years. Paré invented a hinged mechanical hand, as well as prosthetic legs that featured advances such as locking knees and specialized attachment harnesses. Around 1690, a Dutch surgeon, Pieter Verduyn, later developed a lower leg prosthesis with specialized hinges, and a leather cuff for improved attachment to the body. Amazingly, many of the advances contributed by these two doctors are still common features of modern day prosthetic devices.

As artificial limbs became more common, advances in areas such as joint technology and suction-based attachment methods continued to advance the field of prosthetics. Notably, in 1812, a prosthetic arm was developed that could be controlled by the opposite shoulder with connecting straps — somewhat similar to how brakes are controlled on a bike.

The National Academy of Sciences, an American governmental agency, established the Artificial Limb Program in 1945. The program was created in response to the influx of World War II veteran amputees, and for the purpose of advancing scientific progress in artificial limb development. Since this time, advances in areas such as materials, computer design methods, and surgical techniques have helped prosthetic limbs to become increasingly lifelike and functional.

One of the newest socket designs for AK (Above Knee) amputees is the Bikini Socket. Instead of encapsulating the entire pelvis with a thick bulky bucket, the lightweight Bikini Socket and Iliac Crest Stabilizers provide a more direct biomechanical link between the device and its user, resulting in superior control, comfort, and functional outcomes. The socket is also adjustable, unlike the sockets primarily being used.

“As prosthetists, and as amputees, we should always be pushing the envelope to see what the best type of device can be used for an amputee,” says Don Goertzen, a prosthetist and orthotist, and amputee himself. Don lost his right leg in an accident nearly 40 years ago. Don has been fabricating and fitting patients with prosthetic devices for nearly 35 years. Doctors at the time told him he would never be able to walk again. Not only did he walk again, but he also assisted thousands of amputees throughout his career. “It is very tough, but also very fulfilling to assist a patient in restoring mobility.”

Don has fit two patients with the latest Bikini socket on the eve of their 10 years of being in business. CPO started with one office in Peoria, IL, back in 2005, and has expanded to 25 locations within the last 10 years due to their ability to adjust to the times, innovate, and provide surpassing patient care. Most recently, AK patient Robert Stufflebeam was fit with a Bikini socket at the Peoria, IL office by Raju Roy, certified prosthetist and orthotist, and Don Goertzen. Robert, like Don, lost his leg nearly 40 years ago, and has seen many different types of sockets throughout his life. “The Bikini Socket is very lightweight; it allows me to get more use out of the day. With my old leg, I would be able to work about 12 hours, and have to call it a day. With the new socket, I can work up to 16 hours a day, and it is adjustable; so I can make it fit better if I lose volume throughout the day.”

For more information about the Bikini socket, call their office at 309-676-2276; or visit their website at

CPO has more than 20 locations including offices in Bloomington, as well as the cities where the support groups meet. CPO offers innovation in prosthetics, orthotics, and pedorthics, with compassionate care and attentive customer service. You can learn more about Comprehensive Prosthetics and Orthotics, as well as find a directory of all of their locations, at; or call them for more information at 309-283-0880.

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