5 Promising Advancements in the Field of Prosthetics

Prosthetic Advancements to Watch

  • Osseointegration
  • Sensation in Prostheses
  • Microprocessor Knees
  • Pro-Flex Ankle
  • BionX emPOWER Ankle

Each year, engineers and scientists discover new ways to deliver promising advancements in the field of prosthetics that strive to improve the lives of an increasing number of amputees. This year, there are several exciting technologies that may mean big things for those in need of prosthetic aid.

Here are five to watch in the near future:

1. Osseointegration

In 2015, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the Osseoanchored Prostheses for the Rehabilitation of Amputees (OPRA) device. The device, manufactured by Integrum, was designed for amputee patients as an alternative to traditional sockets. Individuals who have undergone osseointegration are fitted with a prosthesis that is directly connected to their residual limb via titanium implants inside their bones. Although the device is a potential solution to socket pain and discomfort, it may not be for all patients, and it carries a higher risk of infections and bone fractures if the patient experiences a bad fall. Nonetheless, the technology shows promise and provides amputees with another option to consider.

2. Sensation in Prostheses

Over the last few years, technological advances have shown promise in helping upper and lower extremity amputees use their minds to control their prostheses. DARPA’s Revolutionizing Prosthetics are some of the more recent breakthroughs as they promise that amputees will be able to not only control but also feel sensation in their prostheses. In other words, amputees will be able to use signals from their brains to manipulate objects with their prosthetic devices as well as precisely sense what it is their devices are touching. This is a potential game-changer for amputees because it essentially shuts the neural feedback loop.

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3. Microprocessor Knees

Also known as MPKs, microprocessor knees have recently exploded onto the scene since their first debut back in 1999. Today, a number of manufacturers produce MPKs, including Ossur, Ottobock, Freedom Innovations, and Endolite. A standard MPK integrates a battery, sensors, software, a microprocessor, and either a pneumatic or hydraulic resistance system. The goal is to provide amputees with greater control and mobility at different speeds and over different terrains, thereby improving an amputee’s overall well-being and health and reducing his or her risk of injury from falls.

4. Pro-Flex Ankle

This new prosthesis uses a unique system of a posterior strut and carbon fiber strings that allow an amputee to feel as though he or she has a powered ankle and foot system without the added weight or inconvenient recharging requirements of a traditional battery. This is a radical change from today’s standard carbon fiber prosthetic foot, and it reportedly delivers 93 percent more ankle power. The manufacturer, Ossur, is a known leader in the field of prosthetics and boasts a history of innovation and promising advancements.

5. BionX emPOWER Ankle

The emPOWER BionX ankle provides control, stability, and power that normalizes walking and gives amputees confidence over any surface. This is a breakthrough for moderately active amputees with below- or above-the-knee amputations, and it is the most advanced ankle BionX offers. The emPOWER features a number of strong improvements over previous ankle and foot prostheses, including enhanced power delivery that feels more life-like at all speeds, an integrated battery design that feels and looks less bulky, and improved battery runtimes.

These are just a few of the more recent technological advancements for amputees that have taken the world by storm over the past few years. As technology continues to expand and grow, it is safe to say that we can expect even more promising advancements in the field of prosthetics.