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Simulated limbs to aid prosthetic teaching


To develop a new, more advanced Masters Degree curriculum, the National Centre for Prosthetics and Orthotics (NCPO) staff identified some challenges to meet the goals of the new program within the proscribed La Trobe University framework. These include teaching students to a higher academic level as required from a Masters level program and providing sufficient practical skills training with reduced class contact hours.

To meet these challenges, we developed a unique teaching tool that reduced the staff teaching load and yet improved the quality of the student learning experience: The production of models that simulate an Amputated Transtibial Limb.

Simulated Limb Prototype

A prototype of a simulated transtibial amputated stump model for teaching in the NCPO’s Masters Degree program was created by NCPO staff. This model is far more complex than just a ‘rubber leg’ as it aims to reproduce the underlying bony structures and connective tissues found in a real transtibial amputee. No such model is available commercially and we think that this may be a world first in Prosthetics & Orthotics teaching programs. After testing and evaluation by a number of internal and external clinicians, a company was engaged to construct 15 limbs for use in teaching.

 Simulated Limb Models

The simulated amputated limb models have a plastic skeleton structure under soft foam with a silicone skin over the outside. The skeleton has structural bony details that are commonly used as landmarks for prosthetic palpation and within the soft foam, firmer muscular and connective tissues are included. These models allow students to learn at their own pace in a minimally supervised setting. Students are able to palpate the appropriate anatomical structural features and take plaster casts of the model that capture these features like in a real amputee patient, before they interact with the live amputee volunteers. Risks to the safety and welfare of volunteer amputee patients will be reduced, and students will not need the high level of supervision required when casting the volunteer transtibial amputee patients.

When students actually come to cast real patients, they have gained better plaster handling and casting skills as well as greater confidence in tissue palpation and anatomical landmark identification. This enhances their learning, as students will be able to concentrate their efforts on the clinical applications of their work, having already mastered the basic aspects of tissue palpation and plaster casting.

Benefits of Simulated Amputated Limb Models

Face to face class demonstrations and student interaction with the amputees still occur but instead of having to undertake these processes with little individual practice and undeveloped hand-skills, students are more skilled in the palpation, manipulation and plaster casting of the amputee’s limb. While producing these models is fairly expensive, the simulated amputated limb models should be able to be used for many years to come. As the learning experience with the simulated limbs is largely self-directed, the number of repeated, closely supervised sessions with volunteer amputees and sessional clinicians has been reduced.

The Sim Limb Data

View powerpoint presentation: Evaluation of simulated limb in teaching transtibial prostheticsimb in teaching transtibial prosthetics


The production of this teaching aid has been made possible with support from the Faculty of Health Sciences and the School of Allied Health, La Trobe University.