Winter's Prosthetic Tail
Hanger V.P. of Prosthetics, Kevin Carroll, and Sarasota, Florida, Hanger Practice Manager, Dan Strzempka, teamed up with Dr. Mike Walsh, a leading marine mammal veterinarian, and Clearwater Marine Aquarium’s (CMA) world-class marine mammal trainers to create a prosthetic tail for Winter. This was a major undertaking as attaching a complete fluke and joint onto an inexperienced dolphin had never been done before. The team had to develop a tail and a special liner, WintersGel, that could adhere to her very delicate skin yet hold tightly in water and stay put as she thrust her tail to swim.
Hanger and the CMA team work closely together on ensure Winter's prosthesis provide her optium comfort and functionality.
Winter Adapts Naturally
When the team first started training Winter to allow them to put the prosthetic on her body, they were surprised to learn that she took to the process quite well. And over a period of several months, Winter was able to learn the correct body position for the fitting of a sock – or what is now called a WintersGel Prosthetic Liner – to reduce skin friction and help keep her artificial tail securely in place. Constructed of a very soft silicone-type material, the liner used by Winter has since been developed for human amputees. WintersGel provides a skin friendly, cushioning and more comfortable fit especially for those with skin conerns.
Ensuring a Precise Fit
Featuring a laser scanner and proprietary, Computer-Aided Design (CAD) software, Hanger’s exclusive Insignia™ System was critical in creating an artificial tail that fit Winter’s body perfectly so it could precisely mimic her natural tail.
Unlike other laser scanners, Insignia employs two embedded motion tracking devices to allow for patient movement during the scanning procedure and determine the position and orientation of the scanner’s wand relative to the body part being scanned. Casting a laser light over the body part, it records a cross-sectional profile and allows the computer to accurately reconstruct the full, three-dimensional surface. Scans are accurate to within one millimeter and the three dimensional feature gives detailed surface information often lost with traditional casting methods or mechanical digitizers.
Used by Hanger for patients worldwide, the Insignia System is faster, more accurate, and cleaner than a plaster cast which is commonly used to fabricate a customized prosthesis. In Winter’s case, use of the Insignia System proved to be invaluable in obtaining precise measurements as prosthetists could not communicate with her verbally as to how she needed to position herself for obtaining these. Once again, it also proved that Insignia’s cutting-edge technology combined with Hanger’s highly-skilled staff could ensure creation of an accurate and well-fitting prosthesis – even for a dolphin.
Winter's Insignia images (from left to right) her anterior side, posterior side and peducle. Insignia tabulates measurements and displays the information on a computer. The information is then sent a carving device which makes a precise casting of Winter's residual tail.