Health Team

Permanent prosthetics could change lives for amputees

Posted January 11, 2013

Woody Roseland is in motion.

He’s a seven-time cancer survivor who lost his leg to the disease. Now, he’s helping design a better way of living for amputees.

Roseland is working with the engineering students at the University of Denver’s Human Dynamics Lab to design a permanent prosthesis that would attach to an amputated limb through a post in the bone.

“It would be a game changer, really,” he said. “The effects of it would be huge.”

Roseland is connected to infrared cameras that track reflective markers on his body. The cameras capture his movements in 3-D, and the students use the data to design the prosthetic.

prosthetic leg  Permanent prosthetics could change lives for amputees

Orthopaedic surgeon Dr. Ronald Hugate has led the project at Presbyterian/St. Luke’s Medical Center in Denver.

“You would just attach the prosthetic leg into something that's at the end of your residual limb,” he said. “We need to get the design right before we offer it, obviously.”

Hugate has been on the project since at least 2005, when he worked to implant a pair of artificial legs into the bones of a Siberian husky. The prosthetics were later removed because of fit and infection.

The newer design, which may be ready in two years, uses a special metal that skin and tissue will grow into.

“The benefit there is that it blocks infection,” Hugate said.

The design would eliminate the current socket technology that can be painful and tiring. Hugate said he thinks a permanent prosthetic could restore function to nearly normal, especially for young, active people such as Roseland.

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  • SomewhereLeftOfRTP Jan 21, 2013

    We all owe a debt of gratitude to the people willing to participate in studies like this. Woody is balancing the chance of better prosthetic function against the risk of complications that could leave him worse off than he is now.

    He's also balancing the benefit of a state-of-the-current-art implant against the benefit of a future implant that could offer even better functionality, but might require a healthy stump that hasn't already had an earlier, cruder implant. But if nobody serves as an early adopter for today's implants, we'll never learn enough to make those future implants happen.

    So, again, thanks, Woody.