Researchers have developed a “feeling” prosthetic leg which simulates some of the sensations that would normally be felt by a foot. It also works to help alleviate the phantom pain. Artificial limb created by Austrian scientist.
Professor Hubert Egger at the University of Linz will still be a while before “feeling” limb is on the market.
Currently one amputee has spent the last six months testing it out and says “It’s like a second lease of life, like being reborn. It feels like I have a foot again. I no longer slip on ice and I can tell whether I walk on gravel, concrete, grass or sand.”
What separates this innovation with other artificial limbs, prosthetics or robotic arms - is the restoration of an individual’s lost sensations. To solve this, researchers developed a two-stage process.
- A surgeon needs to rewire an amputee’s nerves, connecting the severed ends that would have innervated the foot to an area just below the skin surface of healthy tissue.
- The foot sole of a lightweight artificial limb is fitted with an array of sensors that are hooked up to a series of stimulators that contact the stump. This means that every time a step is taken, information picked up by the sensors is relayed to the brain.
This works because the information conductors (nerves) are still present by stimulating them, amputee can “feel” the prosthetic foot.
Also reduce “phantom pain” endured by many amputees. This is pain that feels like it originates from a missing limb or body part. Thought to be a result of the brain attempting to adjust to the loss of input from the missing limb.
This creates generating mixed signals, and the pain that is felt by amputee. When the brain receives sensory signals, like in this innovative procedure, it no longer needs to seek information.
Surgical procedure has few risks; only risk is that the nerves don’t reconnect properly. Then feeling to limb doesn’t return. The cost averages to about $11,000.