Tuesday, April 01, 2008

It's official ... I am going to be a guinea pig!

Currently, a BK (below knee) amputee's normal method of wearing a prosthetic leg involves donning (putting on) a liner of some type and then their socket which has a foot at the end of it. This means it takes a little while each morning before getting out of bed or doing anything, unless you hop around on your good leg (which is bad for your sound leg).

There have been advancements in the dental world that has pioneered the implantation of 'studs' into the boney parts of the jaw for attaching dentures for extended wearing. This technology has progressed to where some orthopedic surgeons believe it is possible to do the same thing with lower limb prosthetics.

A team in Europe has experimented with attaching a prosthesis directly into the femur (thigh) bone, which allows the skin to 'grow around' the pylon attachment. The AK (above knee) approach was used as it provided an anchoring into the largest bone in the body.

Enter the US attempt: This method will use an Ertl Bridge attempt as the anchoring location for the internal pylon attachment. (The bridge is the stabilizing link at the bottom of the tibia & fibula) The pylon will be attached by going through the bridge so that it can be secured between the tib/fib as well. Once the pylon and bone work strengthens and the skin heals around the titanium pylon, the prosthetic foot could be permanently affixed to the leg. This would be as close to being 'normal again' as possible for an amputee.

Why do I share this? An 'Ertl amputee' is needed for the initial attempt and I just happen to be an Ertl amputee. I received notification that I have been lucky enough to be selected for this ground-breaking and historical procedure. I have a few more tests to confirm I am a valid candidate for the surgery, but those shouldn't be any problem at all.

From what I have reviewed of the proposed procedure, I believe it should work very well. I will have a good amount of "down time" while I am healing and will have to be in a wheelchair again for several weeks. But if this works, it will be one gigantic leap forward for both the fields of orthopedics and prosthetics. If nothing else, I will get to at least travel and share about this adventure.

The Ertl Procedure was named after the man who designed it: Janos Ertl

The BK bone-implantation procedure I have described above has a peculiar name, of which I am unsure of the exact origin. It is named oddly enough: Polar Foils

Follow-up: Additional information can be found here
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