Osseointegration for amputees involves implanting a titanium anchor rod directly to the bone of an amputated limb extending out of the residual limb. A prosthesis is then attached to that. It can reduce or eliminate common problems associated with sockets not least of all a poor fit between the residual limb and socket, especially in the first 18 months or so following amputation surgery. Patients also report improved walking and joint movement.
There are risks too including implant loosening, fracture and infection.
As this field develops and more surgeons and amputees consider osseointegration as an option it is interesting to note the findings of a recent American study just published by researchers at Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS) New York. They studied 31 men and women who underwent osseointegration after October 2017, 18 above knee implants and 13 below knee. They found marked gains in mobility scores by the patients who had (bar 5) previously worn a prosthesis: 69.7 to 81.4 and a fall in prosthetic problems from scores of 46.4 to 9.1. Not all implants were without problem initially but 93% managed without removing it.
Although the patients tend to be younger applicability is expected to expand out to older patients. With impressive results like these we can of course also expect to see them appear more frequently in injury claims.
Liz Wallace is a Partner and lead of BLM's Amputation Subject Matter Group, which focuses on an area of claims that is constantly evolving and is subject to significant claims inflation with costs of new technology rising year on year. Find out more about the Catastrophic Injury team's Subject Matter Groups here.