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'I know what I'm stepping on,' says amputee testing groundbreaking prosthetics

Catalan hospital, among four in the world to implant bone-anchored prosthetics to its patients

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14 August 2017 05:19 PM

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Jordi Pujolar, Alan Ruiz Terol | Mataró

Groundbreaking prosthetic technology developed by a Catalan hospital is making a big difference in the lives of above-the-knee amputees. Unlike traditional methods which consist of a socket being placed over the stump, this prosthetic is directly attached to the amputees’ femur, thus allowing for greater sensitivity and comfort.

“I felt like a current going all through my leg. It was very moving,” says Ester Muela, an amputee, recalling the day she tried the prosthetic for the first time two years ago. It was nine years after losing her leg. Even after all that time, the new prosthetic allowed her to feel her femur again.

  • “When walking, I feel the impact directly in the femur and I know whether I am stepping on grass, sand or asphalt” 

    Neus Pujolar · Amputee testing the prosthetic

The device, named Keep Walking Advanced, was created by the rehabilitation team at a hospital in Mataró, a seaside town north of Barcelona. Only four other hospitals around the world are implanting bone-attached prosthetics in its patients. The new technology is currently being tested, and doctors in Mataró hope it could soon be included in the public health system. So far, the results are said to be encouraging.

More sensitivity, no sweating

With the new technology, a metal implant is connected to the bone and sticks out through the skin so that the prosthetic can be attached. According to Muela, this system solves one of the main inconveniences of traditional prosthetics: sweating caused by lack of transpiration.

The new device also improves sensitivity. “When walking, I feel the impact directly in the femur and I know whether I am stepping on grass, sand or asphalt,” says Neus Pujolar, another amputee testing the Keep Walking Advanced system at Mataró Hospital.

The consequences of this improvement are remarkable: before, Pujolar barely moved around, even with her previous prosthetics; now, she can walk up to 10 kilometres without much trouble. “I know what I step on and this gives me greater stability. I walk faster and I get less tired,” Pujolar says.

Femur amputations to double by 2050

Above-the-knee surgeries account for the majority of amputee cases. According to Mataró Hospital, most of the femur amputations in developed countries are caused by vascular diseases. It is expected that the number of cases will double by 2050.

In Catalonia, the number of amputations went from 442 in 2015 to 633 in 2016, a 43% increase in a year.

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  • Two patients at Mataró Hospital testing the prosthetics (by ACN)