As useful as they are for amputees, prosthetic legs aren’t the most comfortable things to wear. With the whole body pressing down on the point of contact, they can be painful, awkward to walk with and cause infections. Now scientists from the Office of Naval Research (ONR) have developed a more comfortable and “smart” prosthetic that can be attached and detached at will, and monitored for infection and stress with an array of sensors.
One of the most common types of artificial leg is a socket prosthesis, which supports the body by fitting around the end of the remaining limb. But these can put too much pressure on the soft tissue there, leading many amputees to opt for a wheelchair instead.
The ONR device is called the Monitoring OsseoIntegrated Prosthesis (MOIP). To improve comfort, the prosthesis has a titanium fixture that is surgically implanted into the patient’s thigh bone, which in time grows around – or “osseointegrates” – the metal. A small connector is left poking out of the patient’s leg, and an artificial limb can then be attached to that. With the point of contact moved away from the soft tissue, this kind of prosthetic is more comfortable to wear and allows for a more natural walking motion.