Osseointegration is a revolutionary procedure now available in New Zealand that Fit for Work has been offering above knee amputees since March 2014, in collaboration with the New Zealand Artificial Limb centres. This life-changing technology involves placing a metal implant into the femur, which serves as a connection point for a prosthetic leg. With correct rehabilitation, the bone will grow into the implant and create a single, stable structure.
Fit for Work has the only Specialist Osseointegration Rehabilitation Team (SORT) in New Zealand. Led by surgeon John McKie, SORT has successfully completed eight surgeries to date, with a further eight clients having been assessed for the procedure.
SORT physiotherapist Andy Strang, says osseointegration presents a life-changing opportunity for many amputees. “While some people do really well with traditional prostheses, osseointegration has provided our clients with a significantly increased quality of life. They’ve been stoked with the outcome and so have we.”
With a traditional prosthesis, the soft tissue of the residual limb is placed inside an artificial socket which is attached to a prosthetic limb. This can be accompanied by a number of issues including back and stump pain; skin irritations and breakdown; blistering and cysts; and the development of secondary injuries.
Many of these issues do not occur with osseointegration, which generally offers the following benefits:
- reduced pain
- reduced problems with skin integrity
- improved mobility
- natural development of muscle
- increased tolerance for exercise
- more energy.
Andy says osseointegration makes it easier for people to get back to doing the everyday things they love, such as walking, cycling and returning to work.
The procedure is available to recent amputees and individuals who have already had a traditional prosthesis fitted. Andy says those who have had a traditional prosthesis are generally the most excited about the technology.
“When people make the change from a traditional prosthesis, they see benefits very quickly. I’ve worked with a client who could barely walk one kilometre with a traditional prosthesis before getting severe skin issues. In the first week of using the osseointegrated prosthesis, that same client walked six kilometres. And then did the same the next day. It’s pretty incredible stuff!”
“Osseointegration is reversible, so people can revert to a traditional prosthesis at a later date. However, I’ve never heard of that happening because it offers such an improvement in quality of life,” Andy says.
Fit for Work’s SORT team have only worked with above-the-knee candidates to date, although they are investigating options for below-the-knee osseointegration.
While the procedure isn’t suitable for everyone, the SORT team have found it has worked for most patients. If you think osseointegration could be for you, get in touch with your prosthetist or surgeon at your local Artificial Limb Centre.