(COLUMBUS, Ohio) – For those who have lost a limb, living daily life and doing routine tasks is often not as simple as attaching a prosthetic limb. Many people affected by amputations can’t use artificial limbs due to deteriorating tissue, while many who do use traditional socket prosthetics struggle with constant pain and pressure that makes every step and movement difficult. Now, surgeons at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute (OSUCCC – James) are performing a new procedure that works with a reimagined artificial limb that makes it a “snap” for amputees to get moving more freely and with less pain.
“Osseointegration is a technique in which a metal bar is implanted into the bone, usually the femur bone in the thigh, that extends outside the body to connect to a prosthesis that snaps onto the bar,” said Dr. Joel Mayerson, orthopaedic oncologist and director of Perioperative Services at OSUCCC—James. “This allows the artificial limb to function better and takes pressure off of the residual limb, preventing painful issues associated with socket prosthetics, such as friction, blistering, tissue degradation and skin problems.”
Osseointegration also allows for much more natural movement when combined with a procedure called targeted muscle reinnervation, which attaches severed nerves to remaining muscle. This procedure greatly reduces chronic pain experienced by amputees when firing nerves have nowhere to channel energy to and prepares the residual limb to interact with electrodes that allow patients to control their artificial limb with their brain.
“We’re creating sort of the Luke Skywalker effect from Star Wars by using the brain to move a body part the way it normally would. And it actually does move the prosthesis because the nerve is firing in this similar way to a natural limb,” Mayerson said.
While only a few osseointegration procedures have been performed in the U.S., the OSUCCC – James team hopes to make this procedure more widely accessible to people affected by amputations and eventually make it a solution that is implemented at the time of amputation.