When it comes to prostheses, the better the socket, the greater your comfort. A well-fitted socket can make you feel like you can do anything. On the other hand, an ill-fitting one can impede your quality-of-life. And the foundation for a great fit lies within the flexible gel liner.
Before gel liners emerged on the scene, amputees relied on foam liners, socks or even a hard fit. While foam is a great option for a custom fit, it tends to compress and compact around your limb, often unable to decompress to its original foam form. Today, however, amputees can choose from three different types of material for their personal gel liners: silicone, thermoplastic elastomers and urethane.
Silicone: When this material was first introduced in the early 90s, it was intended to suspend the prosthesis using a pin system. Soon, however, people realized how useful gel was as a liner because of its malleability. Depending on the material used, silicone can become soft or stiff. It can snap back into place after being stretched and is very resilient. Amputees who are looking for responsiveness and control often find they benefit from using silicone prosthetic liners.
Thermoplastic elastomers: This material is made from a very soft plastic. It stretches easier and returns to its shape better than the other two gels. Because it forms easiest under heat, prosthetists are able to manipulate them into a custom shape, making it a great option for those with skin issues or volume change.
Urethane: This tends to be the best gel for limbs with a bony prominence, as it holds the highest friction and stiffness level. Urethane is also good for those who need additional skin protection or soft tissue stabilization. However, the material may not be a good choice for those with a pin system suspension, as the tension is too soft.
Whether its silicone, thermoplastic elastomer or urethane, prosthetic technology has come a long way in the past 25 years. At Floyd Brace Orthotics and Prosthetics, we want you to understand all your liner options, so you can make informed decisions about your health. Call us today to set up an appointment and find the right socket fit for you!