World’s first prosthetic leg that feels like a real limb to the patient
The best option for an amputee to gain back lost motor ability is through prosthetics and the artificial limb comes with its own set of advantages and disadvantages. For example a prosthetic leg gives the amputated person the ability to walk and perform everyday chores of life without much problem. However, artificial limbs come with own set of problem, the major one being phantom pain.
To counter this traumatic problem researcher Hubert Egger at the University of Linz in Northern America has developed a prosthetic leg that feeds the real sensation of a limb to the brain, thereby eliminating phantom pains completely and giving the patient ability to feel what he/she is walking on.
Hubert has installed this very technologically advanced prosthetic leg on one of his 54-year old patient Wolfgang Rangger, who lost one of his leg after a cerebral stroke. During the phase of six months Wolfgang has reported complete disappearance of phantom pains which almost destroyed his sleep cycle, and also says that the artificial leg feels like a real leg since he can now tell what is he walking on or the kind of pressure being applied.
The sole of the prosthetic leg is fitted with six sensors that are connected to the nerve endings of the patient’s stump that are rewired to healthy tissues of the thigh. This stimulates the brain in believing that there is a real leg and also gives the feedback on the surface of ground. For example, the patient is clearly able to recognize if he is walking on sand, hard surface or stones. Also, the artificial limb facilitates Wolfgang in walking, cycling and running with ease as you can see in the video.
The current prototype version that is being tested with Wolfgang costs about $11,240 (10,000 Euros) to 30,000 Euros. To bring down the cost of manufacturing this prosthetic, Hubert is looking to get help from small companies and bring the artificial limb to the market.