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Orthotists and Prosthetists


Throughout history people have attempted to replace lost limbs and to support weak body parts. Braces, splints, and other corrective devices have been used since prehistoric times. The earliest known prosthetic device is a wooden toe found on a 3,000-year-old Egyptian mummy, whose big toe had been amputated. Devices used during the Middle Ages included metal corsets, splints made out of leather for hips and legs, and special shoes.

Some of the most dramatic advances made in the fields of prosthetics and orthotics have occurred during and after major wars. After World War II, for example, prosthetists discovered new lightweight plastics that could be used to make artificial arms and hands. In addition, a process known as cineplasty was developed: Part of the control mechanism inside a mechanical limb is attached to a patient's bicep muscle for better control over the moving parts of the limb. The Korean War and the Vietnam War also spurred improvements in the design and manufacture of prostheses and orthoses.

Advances in the fields of prosthetics and orthotics continue to be made; specially trained prosthetists and orthotists are always striving to design more comfortable, more useful, and more natural-looking devices. There is a great need for skilled workers in this field, since more than 125,000 people lose a limb each year to illness or injury, and thousands of others have some sort of physical disability that requires orthotic assistance.

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