Monday, 12 March 2012

IMFW: Don't Be So Prosthetic

After last week's Interesting Medical Fact of the week focused on glass eyes, I decided to stick with a winning theme and move on to a post about prostheses of all shapes and sizes.

BBC News have this jolly picture book of prosthetic limbs throughout the ages, which is well worth a look; my favourite is probably the Ancient Egyptian prosthetic toe; found on a mummy and dating back to at least 750 BC, it's the oldest functioning prosthetic ever discovered. Earlier prosthesis exist which appear to have been crafted to replace missing body parts after death - so that the person could enter the afterlife whole. But the bottom of this wooden toe shows wear and tear, indicating that it was used during the Egyptian woman's lifetime. Big toes support about 40% of the weight on each foot, meaning that losing one can upset your balance and slow you down. Plus, although it's quite possible to walk and move around without a toe, a prosthesis can protect the foot where the amputation occured and may be more aesthetically pleasing. Apparently Egyptologists have been seeking volunteers who've had their big toe amputated to try on replicas of the ancient prosthesis to see if it's effective at aiding balance and walking.

And this wooden toe was so well crafted that it's still attached to its owner's foot, 2750 years later.

Warning: prosthetic toe may not be detachable

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