A new study at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) will focus on ways to improve the understanding of a prosthesis user’s mobility.
The school received a $1.97 million grant in 2021 from the US Department of Defense. Benjamin Darter, PhD, an associate professor in the VCU College of Health Professions’ physical therapy department, will use the funds for his four-year project, “Exploring the Impact of Microprocessor-Controlled Knees on Prosthesis Awareness and Overall Health.” The project will ultimately implement a new measure of prosthesis awareness to further explain the clinical benefits of microprocessor-controlled knees. The research team hopes the measure developed during this project will assist clinicians to better understand the walking ability of individuals with lower-limb amputations.
Darter is collaborating with the University of Washington and the Hanger Institute for Clinical Research and Education to develop a measure assessing how much individuals with lower-limb amputations need to pay attention to their prosthetic limb during activity. The project will also study how the need to pay attention changes when a person uses a prosthesis with a microprocessor-controlled knee.
“The more a person has to concentrate and attend to the use of their prosthetic device, the less a person is able to pay attention to other things in their surroundings,” Darter said. “Being out in public and having to navigate uneven terrain, a busy environment, or carrying objects while walking are examples of situations that can overload someone’s ability to process their movements and the environment around them. The result is a person might be at higher risk for tripping and falling.”
Darter said clinicians have many options for assessing what patients are physically capable of doing while using their prostheses, but measures to assess other elements of function are needed. Measurement of other elements could help demonstrate how technological advances can benefit a user, he said.
Darter and his team are seeking participants for this study. Those who have an amputation on one or more limbs, have used a prosthetic device for at least six months, and are over age 18 may qualify.
For more information, contact the research team at [email protected] or call 804-628-3594.
Editor’s Note: This story was adapted by materials provided by VCU.