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New artificial leg allows amputees to feel sensations underfoot

Mark Bowman
09/06/2015
A BBC report details how an artificial leg has been developed in Austria which allows amputees to feel sensations underfoot. Scientists have managed to fit sensors to the sole of the artificial prosthesis, which are transmitted to a microcontroller. The microcontroller then relays the signal to vibrating stimulators which are in turn able to stimulate the nerves at the base of the stump of the amputee which then automatically relays the signal to the brain.

Wearers have described being able to tell from the artificial limb what sort of surface they are walking on to the extent that they can even tell if they are walking on small stones or not. The technology allows the user's brain to receive real data rather than search for information from the missing limb and has reduced phantom limb pain.

This technological development is yet to be reported in a scientific journal under peer-review, however if it proves to be viable under further testing and scientific scrutiny then it's another great breakthrough in helping amputees to get on with their lives.

A few weeks ago I wrote about how osseointegration, a prosthetic implant that could be connected directly to the bone in the leg using titanium fittings, had really benefitted my clients and helped them become more mobile and confident as amputees. If amputees can get access to technology that communicates with them to understand what sort of surface they are walking on, then it is a real breakthrough. Many amputees also suffer from hugely debilitating phantom limb pain or sensations which are experienced by the amputee which appear to be coming from the limb that has been amputated. For some, the pain can be severe and chronic. Treatment can sometimes help and the pain can subside over time, however there are cases where the pain cannot be treated. If this new technology can help mitigate the sensation of phantom limb pain, then it is a big step in the right direction.

You can read a case study about how we managed to help an amputee client get access to the latest osseointegration treatment abroad.

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