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Technology For Life: Hydraulic Foot Prosthetic Makes Walking Easier

Prostheses that move with a person, and try to imitate the natural motion of biological legs and feet are a relatively new idea.

For thousands of years prostheses were made out of what people could find around them, like wood, bone and leather. These rudimentary prostheses were designed for just one task, like eating. Even after the American Civil War which generated thousands of men who needed prosthetic legs and feet, the technology of prostheses stayed the same for the next 70 years. The real change came with material advancements like metal and plastic. Below you can learn about the history of prosthetics in the U.S. from Dr. Jeffrey Reznick, chief of the History of Medicine Division at the National Library of Medicine, in Bethesda Maryland.

Very few prosthetic feet have any range of ankle motion like the hydraulic foot Bob is testing, but some use batteries to produce their own power. Usually the downside is that the person using it needs to constantly remember to have extra batteries on them if they are walking long distances, but with the battery powered prosthetic that Dr. Alena Grabowski describes below, without battery power it defaults to a human powered prosthetic foot.


The Center for Disease Control and Prevention's latest report shows that the rate of leg and foot amputations in people over the age of 40 who have diabetes has declined significantly - 65 percent - from 1998 to 2008. According to the CDC, more than 60 percent of nontraumatic lower-limb amputations occur in people with diabetes.

According to the CDC, more than 60% of nontraumatic lower-limb amputations occur in people with diabetes.

The study authors attribute the significant drop to improvements in foot care and diabetes management and a decline in cardiovascular disease in the U.S. population.

In 2008, 3.9 out of 1,000 people diagnosed with diabetes had an amputation because of it. The study also found that men who have diabetes are three times more likely than women to have a foot or leg amputation as a result.

Black people are more likely to have amputations than white people, while people 75 and over had the highest rate – 6.2 per 1,000 people – compared to other age groups.

Credit Data: 2011 American Community Survey/Infographic: Jackie Fortier / U.S. Census Department
U.S. Census Department
Colorado ranks lower in every category compared to the national average, along with having the lowest rate of diabetes in the U.S.

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