New developments in the world of prosthetics is giving amputee soldiers the opportunity to get back to the front lines. A sophisticated new prosthetic knee is being fitted on soldiers who have suffered above-the-knee amputations. Military medical officials and researchers have developed a prosthetic knee that features a newly designed microprocessor that is a major advancement from previous models.
Soldiers who suffered massive injuries and wounds in the early part of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan ended up retiring after such injuries. Once they were given a prosthetic and rehabilitated, they were basically unfit to get back to the battlefield. With the newly designed “military grade” prosthetic knee, these highly skilled vets are able to continue serving their country.
This new prosthetic knee, dubbed the “Genium X2“, is not meant to force soldiers back to the field. Rather, it’s meant to give wounded soldiers who are willing to go back to work the opportunity to do so. It’s meant to help these skilled vets break through any limitations that their injuries have bound them to.
Members of the Navy, Marines and even the Army’s Golden Knights parachute team have been given the chance to be fitted with such a prosthetic, and also be given the choice to go back to the battlefield after rehabilitation has completed. Such a prosthetic is giving these brave soldiers their freedom back, as well as their quality of life.
Such an advancement not only physically assists these wounded soldiers, but it also provides them with a renewed sense of importance as they realize that they can still do the same job to the same capacity that they were able to do before their injury. It also shows these vets that if they are the victim of such major injuries, they will be well taken care of.
Other service members are given the chance to gain a new-found perspective and heightened level of respect for wounded soldiers when they fight side-by-side with users of the new X2 prosthetic knee.
During the design phase of this new prosthetic, scientists and military medical officials who saw the possibilities through the prototype realized that such a device was needed right away. At first it was considered nearly impossible to design, but through incredible advances and innovations, the new device was finally released.
The new microprocessor featured on the prosthetic knee consists of five sensors – compare that to the original C-leg which only had two. The X2 knee has a great deal of mobility, stability and versatility, thanks to the gyroscopes, hydraulics and accelerators. The knee actually recognizes actions, with the help of multiple sensors. Whether the user wants to stand, sit down or begin walking, the multiple sensors will detect such actions and set the prosthetic in action, without having to use a remote device like previous technology required.
Users have claimed that the X2 feels incredibly natural to walk on, as compared to previous prosthetic models. Without the need to switch settings manually, users can go from walking to running, or vice versa, quite easily. The prototype actually detects such change, and sets the motion in action.
The Genium X2 prosthetic knee comes equipped with a protective cover in cases of accidents or falls that could potentially damage the device.
Users who had previously been fitted with older prosthetics, such as the C-leg and power knee, immediately notice the difference with the new X2. In addition to the C-leg only providing the user with limited range of motion, the power leg would propel users forward while walking, and was quite complicated due the requirement to focus on the knee. With the X2, in contrast, the feeling of movements and the fit itself is much more natural.
Not only does the new Genium X2 prosthetic knee help with mobility and improve independence, it also has a positive effect on rehabilitation. Prior to such an innovative prosthetic, wounded soldiers who suffered dramatically high amputations could barely get up and walk at all due to the degree of the amputation.
Considering the incredible benefits that these new prosthetic knees provide to wounded soldiers, the demand is so high that the company that manufactures them simply cannot keep up with the demand, and are therefore currently on back order.
Regardless of whether or not wounded soldiers decide to go back to the front lines after being given their mobility back, there’s no doubt that the new Genium X2 prosthetic knee has dramatically improved the quality of life for wounded vets who suffered lower extremity amputations above the knee.
Injuries sustained by soldiers at war are not the typical wounds that most average citizens experience. Among the most common are loss of limbs and injuries to the extremities so severe that they require immediate amputation. In order to improve the quality of life after complete healing has taken place, veterans are often fitted for prosthetic limbs. But the prosthetic arms and legs of the past are no match for the incredible advances being made today.
A robotic arm is currently being developed and funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency along with the Department of Veterans Affairs. The idea behind this advanced prosthetic arm is to greatly enhance and improve the functionality for those who have suffered upper extremity amputations. This fully functional arm is said to respond to direct neural control, which mimics the real thing.
It’s easy to confuse the idea of a robotic arm with prosthetics featured in science fiction-type movies. People who have seen Terminator movies, for example, might actually forget for a moment that these are not real. The robotic arms being developed, however, are providing users with more capabilities than ever before.
Prosthetics from decades ago didn’t have the functionality of the projects being developed today, including the drastically improved usability for wounded vets. This newly developing arm features 10 degrees of movement, which is a drastic improvement from the standard prosthetic arm that only provided two to three degrees of movement. Such an enhancement has greatly improved the usability of such a prosthetic.
This robotic arm also features fingers, wrists and shoulders that move as closely to a real arm as possible. The movements of the robotic arm are combining multiple movements into a single, more fluid motion.
Every part of this robotic arm are moved with electric motors which are controlled by signals that the user sends with a foot-based control. Such a control system is much easier to manipulate, given the new 10 degrees of movement. Previous prosthetics featured myoelectric controls using residual muscles. This was fine with prosthetics that only had two or three degrees of movement, but with an increase in such motions, this control system would be difficult. The foot-based system works much better at providing an adequate level of control, without having to rely on anyone else to do it.
Various grips are also being worked on for this prosthetic. Different grips are required for different functions. For example, the grip mechanics required to hold a drill would be different than that needed to hold a fork. Each finger is able to flex and extend individually in order to accommodate for these variations in grips.
The way that the new robotic arm is attached to the body is also under development. How it is attached makes all the difference in the usability of the prosthetic arm. If the seam part cannot be properly controlled, it won’t do much good for the patient’s control.
The team of scientists and developers of this new robotic arm are working closely with a number of patients who have been using this new arm system in order to address any issues or complaints that they may have with it. The patients are in close communication with the developers, and continuously inform them of what works with the system, and what doesn’t. Ongoing studies continue over the life of the program in an effort to improve the design on an ongoing basis and confirm that every component of the program is right on. Up to this point, the team of developers has over 4,000 hours of use time on various versions of this new prosthetic arm system.
Such experiments and clinical studies give developers the experience needed with individuals who will eventually have to use it. Such clinical studies also provide the patients with a great deal of recommendations about the type of activities they’d like to see the prosthetic allow them to do. Whether it’s gripping a drill, holding a cup or carrying a cell phone, all such activities are possible with such advancements in prosthetics for war vets and other patients.
The feedback provided has been very positive to date, with patients being able to finally do the things they love since their injury, such as playing golf, holding a ball or eating at a restaurant with chopsticks. Such an improvement on the quality of life for wounded war vets is exactly what these developers and researchers are pushing for.
Enemies in combat have been devising increasingly sophisticated weapons that counter the advanced body armor, better helmets and armored vehicles that our soldiers are now equipped with. As such, these improved explosive devices constructed by the enemy have been designed to not only overturn an immensely heavy vehicle, but also increase wounds to still-exposed faces and limbs of soldiers, who may well not have survived such attacks at all without such advancements in armor.
Yet what many troops are left with are devastating facial injuries, leaving military surgeons with incredibly complex wounds to deal with. Today’s military faces IED attacks that have crippling effects on our troops, resulting in an increase in face wounds that require immediate treatment as well as long-term follow-up care. Soldiers who have suffered these complex injuries will inevitably require the medical expertise and assistance of a myriad of professionals, including dentists, periodontists and maxillofacial surgeons.
According to experts, there is a distinct correlation between the increased survival rate and the increase in head and dental wounds. Anything from burns, to fractured bones to destroyed jaws have been overwhelming medical units in war-infested zones. With such survival comes clinical cases that need to be dealt with over the long haul.
These clinical cases have changed the face of military maxillofacial dentistry forever. As a result, advances in dental and periodontal procedures have become increasingly sophisticated. First of all, the improved Individual First Aid Kit gives soldiers the ability to provide self-aid and lowers the risk of death on the battlefield – severe hemorrhaging and inadequate airway are two of the leading causes of death.
Maxillofacial dentistry from a military standpoint focuses on issues around the mouth, jaw, and neck. It also includes reconstructive surgery to rebuild parts of the face that have been injured. The advanced dental care that is provided to soldiers, Marine Corps, Navy and Air Force personnel gives them a huge improvement in care in maxillofacial injuries and treatment. ‘Combat dentistry’ has dramatically evolved over the past 2 decades, with large measures stemming from the 1991 creation of the tri-service science and research group that focuses on developing new procedures and technologies. Such medical advancements significantly reduce lost duty time caused by maxillofacial trauma.
Among many of the improvements in the facial and dentistry fields on war-wounded vets include:
- Reduction in disease-causing dental plaque
- Epidemiology of dental trauma
- Fast diagnostic aids
- Preventive technologies that are field-related
- More convenient dental equipment
- Better sterilization of dental equipment
- Climate-insensitive dental tools
- Improved efficacy of dental testing
- Technologies to decrease mortality from maxillofacial trauma
- Access to adequate disposal of mercury-contaminated water
Issues of dental diseases and trauma, as well as maxillofacial battle wounds, have helped to trail-blaze modern combat dentistry. Improvements have been made in dealing with the risk of contamination from dirt, debris and soiled clothing on wounds.
Professionals from a wide range of scientific fields are brought together to develop a multi-disciplinary study environment with the goal of limiting complications of facial injuries and improve maxillofacial restoration. One such advancement is the new Nomad Pro lightweight digital X-ray. This tool helps military dentists treat soldiers who have severe dental and facial wounds. Considering the fact that there are no walls within medical tents upon which to mount X-ray systems, the hand-held Nomad Pro X-ray system allows the dentist to easily adjust the tool. Touch controls permit the dentist to adjust the settings for each individual tooth, and automatically sets the time required to give out a digital X-ray.
The fact of the matter is, war settings have forced advances in the medical and dental field to exponential degrees. Considering the atypical nature of wounds and medical settings on the battlefield, the scientific world is continuously coming up with newer and better ways to treat wounded troops, including maxillofacial injuries which consistently challenges Army dentists every day.
When a medical team has a wounded war soldier rushed into the medical facilities, there are generally a host of severe complications that must be dealt with. One of the issues that must be taken into consideration is the potential for deadly infections. The reality is, the treatment of war-related wounds is highly complicated by the risk of potentially-fatal infections.
There are plenty of ways for troops to develop an infection. IEDs generally have shrapnel in them which exponentially increase the likelihood of developing an infection. The blast of shrapnel, like steel nuts and nails, can deeply embed the bacteria that may surround the shrapnel, planting a seed within the body to begin growing a dangerous infection. Other potent bacteria is often found in soil, which soldiers are highly exposed to on the battlefield.
In such cases, medical teams must often resort to ‘debridement’ – which is the surgical removal of dead or infected tissue in order to control infection and improve healing. Physicians must ensure that the wound is clean and that all infectious material is thoroughly removed. Considering the major extent of war wounds, this process can be extremely difficult.
Some of the more common and potentially-deadly bacteria that war vets can come across include the following:
Acinetobacter – Also known as ‘Acinetobacter baumannii’, acinetobacter is a multidrug-resistant bacteria that is generally acquired in a hospital setting. Many soldiers who have returned from Iraq and Afghanistan are frequently showing this bacteria present in their bodies, and experts are attributing the increases in such a bacteria to the rapid transport of troops from one war site to another. Medical teams are having problems with this bacteria, considering its resistance to medication to fight it. Once a wounded soldier enters a medical facility, they are immediately cultured for acinetobacter and put on contact precaution.
Q Fever – This is an infectious disease that is much less common than acinetobacter, but it is very dangerous. Also known as ‘Coxiella burnetii’, this infection can cause pneumonia and a fever of unknown origin. This can be spread through dust-borne exposure, and can cause endocarditis if not treated. Soldiers returning from Afghanistan are more likely considered for this infection over other areas where war is occurring.
The Innovation of Versajet
Up to this point, dead tissue was removed using a metal scalpel during surgery, as well as electrocautery. Many times viable tissue is sacrificed with such techniques, and not necessarily always successful in removing all the dead tissue necessary. Many times the process will have to be repeated multiple times in order to get to all the dead tissue, causing additional discomfort and cost associated with these multiple procedures.
Recent technological advancements, however, have brought about a new device known as Versajet, which is a high-pressure jet of sterile saline water that is applied to the wounded area. A tiny jet nozzle at the end of the hand piece is held to accurately apply the salt water to the area in question, making it much more accurate than a metal scalpel.
The saline solution is directed into a focused beam, which is collected through an educator port. The wound debris is evacuated by the saline solution and the wound bed is left clean and bacteria-free. Since the beam of saline is directed on a parallel to the surface of the wound, the cutting mechanism is much more precise and controlled, permitting dead tissue to be removed while leaving healthy tissue intact. This is in stark contrast to conventional excise methods where fluid or tools are directed in a perpendicular angle relative to the wound bed, potentially leaving bacteria and debris behind to infect the tissue.
Versajet has given physicians a much better way to deal with and treat these challenging wounds. Infection control is much more feasible with the new Versajet device, which utilizes special silver-based dressings to prevent the occurrence of infection. These dressings speed up the healing process with their anti-microbial properties.
Disruption of soft tissue has a major impact on patients and overwhelms surgical procedures because of their complex nature. Versajet technology can overcome such complexity because of its ability to debride and evacuate bacteria-laden debris all from one specialized tool. This superior modality promotes rapid wound healing, which both requires fewer follow-up surgical procedures and less overall cost.
This innovative device is hoped to provide a shift in the surgical management of complex wounds, improving both the standard of care in war vets and giving medical physicians on site better options to treat their patients. The device has recently been approved by the FDA, and is currently being marketed by Smith and Nephew Advanced Wound Management Division.
Medical scientists are making leaps and bounds for reconstructing just about every body part for war vets who have suffered severe deformities and injuries, including missing limbs, dramatic skin injuries and even missing ears. All over the country, scientific labs are continuing to develop innovative tools and reconstructive procedures to help those wounded on the battlefield, in addition to citizens who have had the great misfortune of suffering massive injuries from a host of different accidents.
After reviewing some of the latest medical studies and research to identify the progress and extent of innovative reconstructive treatments and surgeries, the results show some amazing and surprising feats conquered in the surgical and bioengineering world.
Constructing New Ears
When one thinks of prosthetics, the idea of arms and legs may initially come to mind. But surprisingly, up to 1,000 troops are in need of an ear at any given time due to horrid injuries suffered on the battlefield. Prosthetics in this situation may not exactly help, as they generally have to be attached to the head by means of a rod or fastener, and don’t exactly look natural. After a couple of years, they will most likely wear out, putting them right back to square one.
In an effort to counter this problem, scientists have developed a procedure that matches the patient’s ear by using their own cells. Researchers have been working on this type of natural-feeling prosthetic for over 20 years, but have not been able to overcome certain obstacles that have prevented them from making the prosthetic practical and useful. This problem may now have a solution, as scientists at the tissue engineering lab at Massachusetts General Hospital have been working on a prosthetic ear constructed from titanium and covered in collagen.
Using a computer model of the patient’s natural ear, the new prosthetic can be crafted to look just like the real thing, with the surrounding collagen giving it its elasticity and strength. Snippets of cartilage taken from inside the patient’s nose or from between the ribs is incubated for about two weeks in a lab dish in order to seed and grow natural cartilage. Once the cartilage is ready for implantation, skin grafts are taken in order to cover the cartilage for the prosthetic ear, after which it is fastened into place.
In order to ensure that these types of prosthetics work and can last for many years, this lab has been maintaining lab-grown sheep ears on the animals for 20 weeks, showing that it’s highly possible for these prosthetic ears to last a long time on patients. All the technical issues have seemingly been solved according to researchers, who are now ready to get approval for such prosthetics from the FDA to implant these into humans.
From ‘Bionic’ Arms to Dramatic Transplants
Modern prosthetics have certainly improved the quality of life of the wounded who have suffered a myriad of amputations, including hands, feet, legs, and arms. Yet as advanced as these prosthetics have been over the years, the arms and hands just don’t seem to have the same effectiveness as the legs and feet. Many wounded vets have claimed that they would rather give transplants a shot instead.
Considering the constant bombs and blasts that troops are exposed to every day, even face transplants are required. In fact, the government has estimated that about 200 troops might currently be requiring a face transplant. Yet it is estimated that only about 50 to 100 patients will inevitably get one. The reason for such a backlog is that drugs are required for life in order to prevent rejection of such implants. These drugs can have serious side effects, and can even cause cancer.
In an effort to minimize such risks, researchers at John Hopkins University and the University of Pittsburgh have been diligently working on a solution. Dr. W.P Andrew Lee, a plastic surgeon who has worked at both universities, has been leading a team of scientists in hand transplants on five different patients. In order to allow the patients to tolerate their new transplanted hands, they were each given bone marrow taken from their donors. To date, all five of these patients have been doing well with their new hands thanks to such innovation, and one patient doesn’t even require anti-rejection medication anymore.
Based on such success with transplanted hands, scientists seem quite confident that face transplants should realize the same level of success. Skin is the main target of the body’s rejection of the transplant. To counter this, a special cream with immune-suppressing medicine can be used to counter the effects of skin rejection. If the patient notices any rashes or anything of the sort, they can simply stop the rejection in its tracks by immediately applying such cream.
A number of physicians are currently evaluating troops as candidates for potential face transplants. Many troops have suffered incredible facial deformities from bombs, including losing their jaw, lips, eyes, cheeks, nose and other parts of the face. Such an injury poses a major quality-of-life issue, which these scientists and physicians are trying to improve drastically with successful face transplants.