How long have you been wearing your prosthesis or orthosis here in Savannah? One year? Three years? Longer? Prosthetic and Orthotic Technology has advanced rapidly, creating new options that didn’t exist before. Options that may offer you increased comfort and mobility. But with all of these advancements, how do you make the right choice?
Lower Limb Prosthetic Advancements
With options for all levels of amputations, including symes, below knee, above knee, and hip disarticulations, lower extremity technology is more advanced than ever. Using ComfortFlex socket technology, prosthetists help lower extremity amputees experience new levels of prosthetic comfort and mobility. Because the socket is the initial interface between the residual limb and the prosthesis, the advanced technology Comfort Flex offers is of utmost importance as you consider the many options available to you. The ComfortFlex considers the unique shape of each limb, incorporating channels and grooves to accommodate underlying bone, muscle, tendon, vascular, and nerve areas. The lightweight carbon frame provides maximum comfort as well as support in weight bearing areas.
This new generation of knees provides patients with the gait and stability of the natural knee joint. The pairing of the ComfortFlex and Microprocessor Knees can take the user to new levels of activity. The question is which knee do you choose? Since microprocessor knees have hit the market, there have been many variations including the C-leg, Compact, Rheo, Endolite, and Freedom. The answer depends on the quality of lifestyle each patient is presented with. The Pavet System is a patient evaluation technique and protocol that helps each practitioner decide which knee will allow the patient to get the most out of each system.
With a new prosthetic foot, a patient can be more active in his or her environment. How the foot reacts is dependent on the design. The new carbon composite materials being used today are very lightweight and responsive. There are special features now that can be added, like shock absorbers, adjustable ankles, and axial rotators. Some feet are specific to certain knees while others are specific to levels of amputations and patients’ activity levels. The priority of the proper foot and a patient’s activity level is critical in restoring a patient’s lifestyle and quality of life.
Casting Techniques and CadCam Design
Laser casting and computer aided design are helping prosthetic technology far exceed its past limitations. CadCam design is a high-tech alternative to messy hand casting procedures for fitting prosthetics and orthotics. Using a hand held laser scanner and computer-aided design software, we can capture and store three dimensional images that are exact to within one millimeter. The process is quick, easy, painless, and extremely accurate. CadCam design can be used for all customized orthotic and prosthetic devices. Once the final modifications are made, the information is sent to a computer-aided carver and a positive model is crafted. The result is a precise fit, no matter what appliance is being made.
Technology has also advanced with the new age of myo-orthotics. The term myo-orthotics represents the merging of orthotic technology and electrical stimulation. A perfect example of how myo-orthotics can be used to improve mobility, functionality, and freedom is the walk-aid. Walk-aid is a new myo-orthotic device that uses advanced sensor technology to analyze a patient’s gait cycle. As the patient walks, the walk-aid sends a small electrical stimulation to the peroneal nerve actually restoring the functionality of the foot by recreating a natural nerve-to-muscle response. The walk-aid is especially useful for patients with foot drop, a condition caused by weakness or paralysis of the muscles that lift the front part of the foot making walking a challenge and unsafe.
Knowledge is the key. It is important that patients educate themselves regarding advancements in both prosthetics and orthotics by discussing their needs with professionals who are trained, licensed, and certified in the latest advances. The more active you are in understanding your own needs and advocating for them, the more likely you are to get what you need.