Smart prosthetic leg equipped with sensors will alert users to wear & tear

Smart prosthetic leg equipped with sensors will alert users to wear & tear

Traditional leg prosthetics depend on soft limb tissue to function and can be painful to wear, resulting in awkward walking motion and possible skin infection.

To overcome these limitations, the US Office of Naval Research (ONR) is partnering with Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, the Naval Research Laboratory and several universities to develop MOIP (Monitoring OsseoIntegrated Prostheses).

“MOIP not only can improve quality of life, but also usher in the next generation of prosthetic limbs,” said Dr Liming Salvino, a program officer in ONR’s Warfighter Performance Department.

According to ONR, leg prosthetics most commonly fit amputees’ residual limbs via a socket that encloses the limb. Because the socket exerts pressure on the limb’s soft tissue, pain and chafing, sores and blisters, and infection can occur. Amputees often have their socket prosthetics adjusted, which is inconvenient and costly. Consequently, many amputees give up prosthetics for wheelchairs.

MOIP is said to use an alternative limb type called an osseointegrated prosthetic—which includes a titanium fixture surgically implanted into the thigh bone, (femur). Bone grows, or osseointegrates, at the connection point with the implant, leaving only a small metallic connector protruding from the remaining leg. An accompanying artificial limb then can be attached or detached. The same procedure can be performed for upper limbs.

The advantages of osseointegrated prosthetics are said to include less pain, a fluid walking motion and a more stable, better-fitting limb. But because metal sticks out of the residual limb, infection is a constant risk. To address this issue, MOIP will focus on infection detection, eradication and prevention by developing electrochemical sense-and-respond approaches and “smart” skin technologies.

This includes a bio-compatible sensor array embedded within an amputee’s residual limb coupled with additional sensors on the osseointegrated prosthetic itself. The first technology of its kind, the array tracks changes in body temperature and pH balance, indicators of possible infection.


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