Date: May 1, 2013
Place: Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Bethesda, MD
Interview: David Beachler, Prosthetist
Watch the Video in English
Find out what a prosthetist does and learn about how artificial (fake) arms and legs are created. Some robotic hands can move based on electrical signals in the body.
A Prosthetist is someone who makes artificial arms or legs for individuals who’ve lost their limbs. Most of our patients that we see here are [military] service members who have been injured in either the war in Iraq or Afghanistan.
What’s your day like?
I would start off a lot of times casting [putting a cast on] a patient over the residual limb [remaining part of amputated limb] and from that cast I would pour that up in plaster and have a positive mold of their limb. And then from there we would modify that mold down a little bit and create a plastic socket or carbon fiber socket, depending on their stage of rehab.
We may go through a number of those [plastic] sockets before we go to a carbon fiber socket like this here. And once we make this socket, we really can’t make any changes to it. But it’s very strong, very durable. It’s not going to break at all.
And that socket would go over the residual limb and then from there we would fit either knee or foot or both.
With arms, there’s a lot more wiring if you’re doing a Myoelectric prosthesis which is a prosthesis that has a motor and a battery system that has a microprocessor [tiny computer] system in it that will open and close from the flection of a muscle in their arm. It picks up an electrical signal in their arm and opens the hand and the other muscle will close the hand. They have a thin layer of silicone that’s a duplicate of the other hand, if they have that other side. And they paint the inside of that hand to their skin tone, their skin color. They can even put freckles, they can put veins in there, they can put hairs.
What your favorite part of the job?
Working with the patients is the best. Seeing somebody stand up and walk, you know, for the first time after they’ve been injured or see them being able to feed themselves with a new arm prosthesis. That’s my favorite part of the job.