Improvements in prosthetics - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Improvements in prosthetics

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October 8, 2002

Albany - New technologies continue to improve prosthetic limbs, giving amputees more mobility and comfort. Computerized hands, arms, legs, and feet that can preform most of the functions of natural limbs are now available in Southwest Georgia.

Small electrodes, attached to the skin, allow for a nearly full range of motion with a new prostheses. The electrodes detect muscle movement. With a prosthetic hand for example, certain muscle contractions cause the hand to grasp or open.

"We can place the electrodes on any remnant muscles, on the arm or on the chest. The computerized limbs give amputees mobility unimaginable just years ago," said Bill Limehouse, Upper Extremity Specialist.

Limehouse, from Hanger Prosthetics, uses a handheld computer to increase the sensitivity of the limb according to the strengths and needs of a patient. "If a patient doesn't have much muscular strength, we can adjust the level of muscle movement that is needed to operate the limb."

Custom made gloves make the hand appear amazingly life-like. Similar technologies are improving prosthetics legs as well.

"The knee joint is computerized. It can absorb the shock placed on the knee and foot when an amputee walks, making the limb more comfortable," said Kevin Carroll, Hanger Prosthetics.

Prosthetic limbs are now lighter, more durable, and more comfortable. That's good news for Steve Ekkel of Americus, who lost his foot in a farming accident, but continued to work long hours in the fields.

"I broke 4 prosthetic legs in just a few years, because I put them under a lot of stress. The new foot that I'm about to get is sturdier and more mobile," said Ekkel. Prosthetic limbs can cost up to $40,000.

posted at 4:45PM by kathryn.murchison@walb.com

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