Prosthetics During the Civil War

MacRae, Michael. “The Civil War and the Birth of the U.S. Prosthetics Industry.” American

Society of Mechanical Engineers, n.d, https://www.asme.org/engineering-topics/articles/

bioengineering/the-civil-war-and-birth-of-us-prosthetics-industry. Accessed 27 Oct. 2016.

In this article, the author, Michael MacRae outlines the history of prosthetics for veterans. Prosthetic technology began to develop rapidly with the production of more dangerous bullets and more government money. Especially during the Civil War, a lot of veterans were hit by the newly developed Minnie Bullet. The Minnie Bullet left large, slow healing wounds. Because doctors weren’t trained to deal with the magnitude and volume of these injuries, they were forced to amputate a large portion of injuries. Many soldiers were unhappy with the government issued prosthetics and they decided to design their own. James Edward Hanger became a pioneer for prosthetic design and development. After the war, he started a company that exists to this day.

Although these Civil War prosthetics are not nearly the oldest prosthetics that have been uncovered, they do mark the beginning of an era. The earliest prosthetics are detailed in another article, they include heavy iron hands built for combat. These prosthetics were made so a soldier could return to war after suffering through a traumatic amputation. Civil War veterans did not see much hope after facing rushed amputation on the battlefield; they faced a lifetime of discomfort and inconvenience. After the Civil War, a lot of soldiers were in dire need of prosthetics and an industry was formed. After prosthetics became available to soldiers, there was more of a market for patients who suffered from limb deformity. This article also talks about how the government implemented a program that provided prosthetics to all those injured in the Civil War.

After reading about the need for prosthetics after the Civil War, I wonder about the current need for prosthetics for veterans. What kind of technology do modern veterans have access to and what kind of payments do they have to make on their prosthetics?

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