Paula Francis, AnchorIraq War Creating Advances in Prosthetics
March 24, 2008 04:48 PM PDT
Wounded soldiers returning from Iraq are getting bionic replacement parts, and the new hi-tech artificial legs are available in Las Vegas.
Dan Ramsey can relate to soldiers who have lost a limb. His own leg was blown off by a land mine in Vietnam -- an explosion that killed two other soldiers.
He's now an expert on replacements as a designer with Prosthetic Center of Excellence in Las Vegas. He says military demands speed up research and development.
"It pushes technology and gains significant advancements in prosthetics. Particularly now with computers -- microprocessors and things like that," he said.
Ramsey wears an example of the latest technology, the C-Leg Prosthesis. A microprocessor is embedded where the calf would be. The computer sensors aid amputees in walking, turning and bending, by making automatic adjustments.
The U.S. Army has helped expedite progress in getting the C-Leg to market.
"The real world has stairs, irregular terrain, curbs, things like that that you have to negotiate. So all these architectural barriers are much easier to negotiate with the c-leg," he said.
Las Vegas orthopedic surgeon and retired Captain Anthony Serfustini has worked in makeshift operating rooms in Iraq. He's now part of the trauma team at UMC. He says the Iraq War is not the first time that a conflict has sparked new inventions.
"You can go back to World War II and Vietnam, in which these conflicts infused excitement, a lot of work and a lot of designs into newer and better prosthetics for our returning servicemen," said Serfustini.
These new designs ultimately benefit civilians. Some 140,000 amputation surgeries are performed in the U.S. each year. As you might imagine, C-Legs are expensive, costing more than $30,000.