Osseointegration is changing the world of prosthetics

Published: May. 25, 2020 at 8:41 AM EDT
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(05/25/2020) -- Nearly two million Americans currently use a prosthetic device. And as a result, a new push in research is advancing the technology for artificial limbs. One of them is called osseointegration.

It‘s set to revolutionize the lives of some amputees.

For most of us, lifting 90 pounds is not easy. But, imagine doing it with only one leg. It’s one of the many challenges Munya Mahiya has tackled thanks to a near bionic prosthetic.

“I’d say, it’s amazing. I used to use the socket prosthetic. I couldn’t sit in it for a long time. It would just pop off,” Munya shared.

The switch came for Munya when he discovered a cutting-edge procedure at UC San Francisco called osseointegration. It borrows the basic concept used for a dental implant.

“For patients with amputation, we are now able to secure the titanium implant directly to a person’s thigh bone or femur, and directly connect it to an external prothesis. This allows the patient to walk much better and much more comfortably,” explained Richard J O’Donnell, MD, Professor of Clinical Orthopaedic Surgery, UCSF.

Munya continued, “I have better control of my prosthetic because it’s like now connected to my skeletal frame.”

To get to that point, a team of doctors led by Dr. O’Donnell performed the osseointegration over a multiple phase process.

“The first time they go in, they hollow out the bone and they put in a fixture that stays in your bone and they try to make sure that the bone grows around it,” stated Munya.

“Six months later the stage two surgical procedure takes place with some skin grafting,” Dr. O’Donnell said.

That’s followed by a fitting for a short prosthetic.

“So, essentially what we had to do was relearn how to stand on my knees,” said Munya.

After six short weeks, Munya received his permanent prosthetic.

“It makes it a lot more easy,” smiled Munya.

Osseointegration is an invasive process. So, doctors recommend it first to those who don’t have a comfortable fit with a traditional socket prosthetic. And for those patients, like Munya, the benefits are worth it. The prosthetic always attaches correctly, remains in place, and is free from pain.

In addition to UCSF, St. Luke’s in Denver, Johns Hopkins, and Walter Reed also offer osseointegration.

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