This very interesting work detailed in today’s Cape Town Cape Argus paper by health writer Sipokazi Fokazi
This from the teams that brought us the “blade” prosthetics made famous by South African sprinter Oscar Pistorius. A practical, affordable powered knee could ultimately, if matched to the right person, be a real breakthrough.
ABOVE-the-knee amputees are being offered new hope, thanks to South African prosthetic technology that recognises and memorises a person’s walking style, adjusting to it in real time.
Launched in Gauteng last week, the motorised knee is expected to help those who depend on a prosthetic leg to walk and even run more easily, and get up and down stairs without assistance.
Johan Snyders, chief executive of manufacturer Icexpress Progressive Prosthetics, said the Ossur Power Knee was a “smart” prosthetic limb that enabled users to walk fast and tackle slopes. He said it eliminated the discomfort of wearing a prosthesis, so preventing further damage to muscles, thanks to its lightness and easy-to-adapt technology.
He acknowledged that amputees could participate in physical activities with normal, non-motorised and hydraulic prosthetic knees, but said it often involved discomfort because the prosthesis put pressure on the muscle, leg or hip.
One amputee who got her groove back thanks to the knee is Kim Robinson, of Newlands, who represented South Africa at the 2008 Beijing Paralympics.
Robinson’s leg was amputated about six years ago as a result of cancer, and she had hip-replacement surgery to compensate for the added pressure resulting from the amputation.
She has high hopes that the knee will help restore her muscle capability, while limiting further damage to her back as well as her other hip and leg.
Since Beijing, Robinson has slowed down to concentrate on her family. She said that after just a short while of using the knee, she was seeing benefits.
Before, she had to negotiate uneven terrain with caution; now she could walk, even in thick grass or on sand, with confidence.
“Before I was using a passive (non-motorised) prosthetic knee, and this took a great deal of my energy, especially when I had to run after my two-year-old son.
“Last week I was in Joburg and had to walk up and down almost the whole day. I couldn’t believe how I managed that, because at the end of the day I was still energetic.”
She said being able to walk on the beach was a huge advantage. “With the passive knee it became extremely difficult to walk on the sand, as I constantly had to pull it out of the sand. The new one makes life so much easier because it is lightweight and I don’t have to use so much energy to do even the most basic things.”
Snyders said although there were other advanced prosthetics, they had limitations as they required so much energy.
The motorised knee was the first active knee that allowed for active extension of the knee joint, allowing amputees to walk up stairs or ramps, aided by the motor in the knee.
“The knee will allow users who are not so strong, or don’t have adequate muscle strength, to walk for longer periods,” he said, adding that its security setting meant amputees could focus less on their posture and more on their surroundings.
It also had a stumble recovery feature that helped prevent falls and the secondary injuries that could result.