Deanna Gates, assistant professor of Movement Science, was recently awarded a Department of Defense grant. It is for nearly $500,000 over two years.
Abstract: Currently, there are 1.6 million people in the U.S. living with limb loss. With a prosthetic device, many of these individuals can remain physically active, but most do not achieve medically recommended physical activity standards and are therefore at a greater risk of cardiovascular disease. It is thought that individuals with amputation walk less because it is more energetically costly for them to do so. Recent advances in robotic prosthetic technology may alleviate some of these costs. In particular, several active ankle-foot systems are being designed to provide external power during the push-off phase of gait. These devices have not yet been critically evaluated to determine their effectiveness during extended walking. Although the devices provide mechanical power, it is not clear whether the user effectively incorporates that power to reduce biological muscle requirements. We propose to evaluate the efficacy of a powered lower limb prosthesis by studying twelve individuals with unilateral below-knee (transtibial) amputation. They will walk for an extended period while wearing their conventional passive elastic prosthesis and then wear a commercially available powered prosthesis. Aim 1 will determine if adding external ankle power reduces compensatory muscle activity during walking. Aim 2 will determine if adding external ankle power delays the onset of muscle fatigue during an extended bout of walking. Aim 3 will determine if, by wearing an externally powered prosthesis, people will increase their overall physical activity level, reintegrate into their communities, and/or see improvement in their quality of life. The outcomes of this study will provide much needed insight into the effectiveness of such devices in people with transtibial amputation. The results will also help to make future recommendations for clinicians who choose which device to provide a patient, funding agencies, such as Medicare, who decide what devices are covered, and those who design prosthetic technology.