Thursday, February 24, 2011

Leslie, Our First Everyday-Amputee Hero

We continue to be inspired by the strength, determination and fortitude of our patients. Although every amputee comes to us with a different set of circumstances and needs, we are honored to help them with their prosthetic needs so that they can achieve their personal best. This blog was conceived, in part, to so that we could profile our "everyday amputee heroes" so that others can gain motivation and inspiration from each unique story.

Leslie came to OPC after seeking prosthetic care at another facility. Unhappy with her prosthetic and frustrated that she wasn't being heard, she contacted Elliot at the urging of a friend. Because she lives three states away, she was initially uneasy, but her first visit affirmed her hope that she had found the right facility for her.

"I contacted Elliot because I had a very good friend that "raved" about him. He made no promises, but he agreed to see me the next day. After meeting with Elliot, I knew that I was supposed to be with him all along. Elliot, never made promises that he couldn't keep, but most importantly, he listened to every word that I said. He was sort of like the old EF Hutton commercial-- when I spoke, he was silent and listened to everything I had to say.

Elliot didn't bash my old prosthetist, which he could have, but he made suggestions as to how he could help me get walking again, most importantly, pain free. Elliot asked me what I wanted out of life, both personally and activity wise, and then he offered suggestions as to how he could help me meet my goals.

Elliot not only became my prosthetist, he became my friend and one of my biggest cheerleaders. I know that if I have a question or concern, Elliot is there to speak with me no matter how trivial the concern or question may seem. He has given me the courage and tools to know that I can accomplish whatever I set out to do, and if my prosthetic needs to be adjusted to accomplish something new, well, he is there to make those adjustments as well."

Leslie currently uses the Echelon foot by Endolite. She credits the foot with much of her success.
"I have, walked, run and biked with my foot without having to have any adjustments made. To be honest, when I was rock climbing, I had more confidence in my Echelon foot then I did in my real foot! I hear amputees talking about the difficulty in climbing and descending stairs or stubbing their "toes." I have NEVER had any problems at all. I walk my campus everyday of the week and have yet to stub my "toe."

During the past year, Leslie recalls two major milestones that, for her, highlight the progress she has made.

"The first being able to walk a mile, relatively pain free, less than 1 month after I received my first socket and 3 months from my amputation. The second milestone was rock climbing in Las Vegas, NV this past November. I felt that if I could make it to the top on my own, then there was nothing that could hold me back. I was correct, as I did another solo rock climb the same week, and in January I went zip lining through the canopy in Mexico. The feeling of accomplishment was overwhelming. I didn't expect the tears to flow, but I guess after being inactive for over 2 years I finally knew that I was "back."

After her amputation Leslie resolved to "turn lemons into lemonade." She quit her job and enrolled as a student at Towson University. We asked Leslie what she would like to accomplish in the future, and to describe her goals.

"Well I would like to lose 50 pounds and continue my adventure lifestyle, one that I had prior to my accident in 2007. I am currently a student at Towson University in MD and have recently been accepted into the Delta Alpha Pi Honor Society for disabled students. I have been asked to be a member of the Ambassador panel so that I can spread the word that being an amputee doesn't mean that you give up your life or dreams. I am living proof that life does go on, a little differently, but that you can live a happy, active life."

Tomorrow, Leslie marks her one year anniversary of becoming an amputee. She has made great strides in a mere 12 months. Using the amputation as an opportunity to redefine her goals and to gain a fresh start, she embodies making the best of a bad situation. Thank you for choosing OPC to be part of your journey.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Why OPC?

In many ways, the relationship that is forged between the amputee and his or her prosthetist is paramount to the patient's success. The amputee must learn to trust not only their new prosthesis, but the prosthetist who is responsible for manufacturing and maintaining the device. At OPC we realize that trust is an attribute which must be earned. We have been earning our patient's trust and rebuilding their lives since 1980.

OPC is a family run business based in Northern Virginia. Our patient base is not ruled by geography but has been established through years of being leaders in the field of prosthetic care. We are proud to tout patients from all over the world and throughout the United States.

We realize that amputees have a lot of choices when choosing their prosthetic facility. Most insurance plans do not bind their patients to a facility within a designated geographic region. We are proud that many of our patients travel from all corners of the country to see our prosthetists. Their reasons are simple: we provide quality prosthetics that are individually crafted to help our patients reach their goals.

Our prosthetic and orthotic work is done within our facility which allows us to maintain our strict quality controls. We are equipped to make adjustments in-house, eliminating the amount of time our patients are without their devices. We realize the importance of time to our patients and make every attempt make repairs and adjusts the same day.

When asked about the important aspects of their job, our prosthetists all provided the same response. At OPC, listening to our patients is one of our most important jobs. We listen not only to their dreams and goals, but also to their issues with their prosthetic. We realize that it is difficult for the new amputee to explain the sensations that they are perceiving through their device. Our experience helps us to understand what they are trying to explain and many times we find that we are able to finish their explanation for them.

Because many of our patients travel vast distances to visit our facility, we are equipped and ready to devise and create quality prosthetic solutions efficiently. We realize the value of our patients time and take every measure to ensure that they achieve success as quickly as possible. Quality, however, is never compromised to achieve speed.

We are not bound to corporate constraints when creating prosthetics or orthotics for our patients. We have access to components from major manufacturers around the world. We specialize in creating personalized prosthetics that are as unique as our patients.

OPC accepts most major insurance plans. Our talented billing staff is here to help you navigate through the paperwork quagmire. Experience dealing with out of state insurance plans helps to expedite the reimbursement process.

Travel distance can be an issue and we want to make learning about our facility as easy as possible. Skype consultations are available so that you can meet our prosthetists and discuss your goals.

Regardless of your prosthetic needs, we are here to help. We welcome the opportunity to serve not only amputees within the Northern Virginia area, but amputees from around the country. Call us and learn how OPC can help to provide you with the prosthetic tools you need to transform your life.

Thursday, February 17, 2011


Microprocessor knees have been available since the C-Leg was introduced in 1997. Although the various prosthetic computerized knees have distinct features and differences, they all share one attribute: the knees only move when they are unloaded.

Unlike other prosthetic knees available, the PowerKnee, by Ossur, is motorized in order to simulate the muscle lost through the amputation. This knee has the ability to move when fully loaded, providing power through the prosthesis. The PowerKnee enhances the ability to walk by helping the individual move through the gait cycle.

The PowerKnee assists the amputee with maintaining their walking speed and enables the wearer to walk on various terrain. The extra power provided by this prosthesis assists the amputee and allows him or her to walk for longer periods of time. Because the knee compensates for loss of muscle, the amputee does not have to utilize gait deviations. A natural gait pattern minimizes the strain placed upon other muscles, including the hips, back and shoulders.

Perhaps one of the most impressive features of this device is its ability to help the amputee walk up stairs. Most above knee amputees walk up stairs using a single leg step pattern. This groundbreaking prosthetic knee provides the amputee with the means to walk up stairs in a natural leg over leg fashion.

The PowerKnee is now in its second generation. The unit has been redesigned, creating a sleeker look and more user friendly interface than the model shown in the video. The battery lasts for approximately 6 to 8 hours. Each unit comes with an extra battery and a portable charging station so that the user never needs to be without power. Should power be lost, the PowerKnee becomes a rigid and stable knee.

The PowerKnee II is going to be commercially available in the coming months. If you think that this knee might be for you, give us a call. Rest assured that our practitioners are trained and experienced in fitting this groundbreaking technology.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Game Console Fitness

With New Year New You New Foot (or hand) starting this week, we wanted to take the opportunity to introduce some fun work-out options. Resuming an exercise routine after limb loss can be frightening. We want to help you resume an active lifestyle by quelling exercise anxiety.

It is not unusual for insecurities regarding the movements, impact and proper use of the prosthetic to keep the individual from pursuing their work-out goals. In the coming weeks we will be offering a variety of work-out options that can be adapted to your level of amputation. You don't have to have a gym membership or expensive equipment in order to exercise, burn calories and increase your physical fitness.

If you have a game console, you have access to an array of work-out routines. A number of games incorporate enough movement to work up a sweat and to burn calories. After all, fitness doesn't have to happen in a gym.

Active is an interactive program designed to move the player through a variety of work-outs. This basic fitness program has options to work sections of the body, or to run you through a whole body workout. Because of the ability to personalize, the player can eliminate the exercises which are difficult or painful.

Dance Dance Revolution has received a lot of press in the past months. Many lower extremity amputees find it frustrating with the constant impact on the residual limb becoming painful. This is a game that utilizes primarily foot movement in quick succession. Dancing ability is a requisite for this game.

Just Dance, another physical game, only utilizes the hand controller. Foot options are demonstrated on the screen but are not required to score points. Lower extremity amputees are not at a disadvantage! Be careful, this game will have you working up a sweat in a song or two.

Many of our patients struggle to find an effective and fun fitness regimen. The fear of exercising with a prosthetic, and of potentially becoming injured, keeps the amputee sedentary. We recommend starting slowly and building upon your fitness accomplishments.

Before viewing the following video, please keep in mind that individual in the video has had no professional dance training (she is also a bka), and remember that laughter is good for the soul! Cowboy hats are, of course, optional.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Rheo Knee

The Rheo knee, by Ossur, has been a successful prosthetic for scores of above knee amputees because of its unique features.

Like other microprocessor knees, the Rheo knee has the ability to evaluate the terrain and to make necessary adjustments to promote stability and safety. The quick processing speed afforded by the computer technology minimizes the amount of mental effort that must be exerted by the amputee. The knee adjusts to variations in walking speed. Wearers of the Rheo knee tout increased confidence and stability as attributes of the knee.

The Rheo knee is the only microprocessor knee to utilize artificial intelligence (AI). The device is constantly learning and making minute adjustments to promote a more natural gait. Whereas other knees on the market have set parameters for adjustments, the Ossur knee continues to refine its movements throughout the lifetime of use. The longer the knee is used, the more smooth and natural the knee movement becomes.

Another unique attribute of the Rheo knee is the ability of the wearer to maneuver in tight areas. Numerous activities, ranging from getting files in an office to fixing dinner in the kitchen, require that the amputee move only a few steps. The Rheo knee adapts to these situations- flexing and allowing the amputee to walk in a normal fashion where other knees become rigid and stiff.

Many amputees appreciate the flexibility in foot selection that the Rheo knee affords them. The knee can be paired with a variety of feet, increasing the personalization of the prostheses to the individual's needs.

The practitioners at OPC are experienced fitting patients with the Rheo knee. If you think that this technology might be for you, or if you have any questions, give us a call.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Dry Skin... And Those Little Red Bumps

Cold weather can wreak havoc on your skin. The frigid temperatures, combined with the lack of moisture in the air, leaves many people with dry and cracked skin. The skin on the residual limb is not immune from these issues.

Many amputees complain of dry, cracked and chapped skin on the residual limb, especially during the winter. Some lotions lubricate the skin too much, making it difficult for the liner to stay in place. It is impossible to remain comfortable with a slippery, cracked limb!

In order to minimize the effects of dry skin on your residual limb, it is important to remain proactive. Avoid putting on a wet liner. Be sure to thoroughly dry your limb before donning your liner and prostheses. Stay hydrated. Sometimes, despite these efforts, dry and chapped skin still develops.

Eucerin cream, applied liberally at night, can help to restore moisture. The thick cream is difficult to apply if it is cold, so slightly warming it in the microwave can make the application easier and more comfortable. (Be careful because overheating the cream can lead to burns.) Because the cream can be sticky, place a towel or barrier between your limb and your bedsheets to avoid a mess.

During the day, try Monistat Soothing Care Chafing Relief Powder-Gel. This non-irritating product, available at most drug stores, calms and heals the cracked skin on the sensitive skin covering the residual limb. The formulation is easy to apply and does not cause excessive lubrication.

Monistat powder-gel not only soothes the chapped skin and moisturizes to prevent further damage, it works to heal the tissue. The mild compounds helps to reduce inflammation, making it more comfortable to don the prosthesis. This fragrance free powder gel also works to treat those small, red bumps that often develop. Many patients note a marked improvement after one application!

If anyone else has found a particular product to be effective, please share it with us.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Meet the C-Leg

In 1997 the world was introduced to the first microprocessor prosthetic knee. This innovative device has changed the lives of thousands of above knee amputees since its introduction to the US market in 1999. The advent of the microprocessor knee has been a game changer in the field of prosthetics.

The C-Leg, by Otto Bock, utilizes a microprocessor to analyze and respond to to sensors at a rate of 50 times per second. The constant analysis of terrain and gait provides the amputee with a knee that is responsive in real time. Many C-Leg wearers report an increased sense of stability, especially when variations in walking speed occur.

The knee works by controlling the amount and angle of movement (flexion), within the "joint." A system of hydraulic cylinders are controlled by the microprocessor after the information from the sensors is received. The knee is allowed to bend to a certain angle based upon the combined readings from the angle and movement sensors.

When the prosthesis is not fully weighted, the knee remains in free-swing. After they are fully trained and prosthetic trust has been developed, many wearers note that the C-Leg takes the thought process out of walking. Various modes are available to accommodate for a variety of activities, ranging from walking to riding a bike.

Unlike mechanical knees, the C-Leg allows the user to vary their walking speed without adjusting their gait as well as enabling the individual to walk down the stairs in a leg-over-leg pattern. Should the amputee stumble, the knee will adjust without buckling. Because of the speed of the microprocessor, the knee responds to missteps and stumbles before the human body.

Here is a little tidbit of trivia you can use to impress your amputee friends. Most people assume that the "C" in C-Leg stands for computerized or computer. In actuality, the "C" refers to the original model number of the device, which was known as the 3C100 knee. It was shortened to C-Leg and the name has been applied to each version manufactured.

Although the C-Leg isn't for every above knee amputee, it has proven to be a valuable tool for many of our patients. If you are interested in learning about the C-Leg and if this knee is for you, give us a call.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Feeling through a Prosthetic? Maybe

The goal of prosthetic design always has been to restore the function lost due to the limb loss. Unfortunately, a manufactured device has not been able to completely mimic the movements and form of a human limb. Recent technological advancements are forcing the boundaries of prosthetic design into realms thought to be that of science fiction.

Restoring the sense of touch through a prosthetic had been thought to be an impossible task. The nervous system was presumed to be too complex to be harnessed and routed through a prosthesis. Researchers at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, searching for ways to utilize muscles to control a prosthesis, have stumbled upon a method of restoring the sense of touch for some amputees.

During the surgery, known as targeted reinnervation, the motor nerves in a nearby muscle are deactivated. The nerves endings from the newly amputated limb (in this case always an arm) are rerouted and embedded into this muscle. With time, the nerve endings acclimate to their new host muscle.

Researchers discovered that stimulating the area of the rerouted nerves created a touch sensation for the amputee. Experimenting with a variety of systems to stimulate the area, including electrodes and minuscule robots embedded within the socket, amputees have reported feeling temperature, textures and pressure variations.

At this time, research is limited to upper extremity amputees. Because the nerve rerouting must occur at the time of the amputation, it has not been attempted on experienced amputees. Although the pool of those who may benefit from this research immediately is small, the long term effects have the promise of impacting prosthetic design in the future.

To read more about targeted reinnervation and the impact on restoring sensation, visit: Scientific American or USNews.