HealthWatch:Prosthetics That Never Have to be Removed

Published 11/15 2013 12:47PM

Updated 11/22 2013 05:58PM

DENVER, Co. (Ivanhoe Newswire) - 1.7 million Americans are living without an arm or leg.  This year alone, 65 thousand more will undergo an amputation. Now, a medical breakthrough could change their lives.

The show "Baghdad ER" shows the reality of war at a combat support hospital.

Seeing that wartime reality firsthand, in a combat emergency room, inspired Dr. Ronald Hugate.

"For four months we just saw a lot of traumatic amputations," Ronald Hugate, MD, Board Certified Orthopaedic Surgeon, Presbyterian/Saint Luke's Medical Center, told Ivanhoe.

Dr. Hugate came home to help people like 16-year-old Woody Roseland, who lost his lower leg to cancer.

"Seeing patients like Woody, who are here and is a normal high school kid playing football that has a cancer that really motivates you to try and make things better," Dr. Hugate said.

Hugate's quest is to design a permanent prosthetic. So far, it has been a success on a dog, named Triumph.

"I can't wait to see it change people's lives," Woody told Ivanhoe.

In the University of Denver Human Dynamics Lab, Woody's movements are caught on video with an infra-red tracking system. Engineering students use the data to design a prosthetic that attaches to a post inside the remaining part of the leg. Skin grows into the trabecular metal lining.

"The implant is no longer fitting around the skin it is just snapping to the end of this prosthetic. So, it would improve the life of amputees exponentially," Dr. Hugate said.

Making this, the first step into helping patients feel whole again.

The permanent prosthetic design could eliminate the current socket technology that can be painful and tiring.  Dr. Hugate said he thinks a permanent prosthetic could restore function to nearly normal, especially for young active people. He expects it will take another three or four years before the permanent prosthetic is ready for people.

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