My Prosthetics

Prior to receiving my ITAP implant I had an Endolite IP+ knee  with some sort of energy returning foot. This leg served me faithfully for many years, requiring only occasional ‘Trigger’s broom’ type maintenance after catastrophic breakdowns.

ESK knee

Throughout my ownership of this leg it was fitted with the same socket that I had made when my fixation was initially upgraded from a TES belt (Total Elastic Suspension) and stump socks to suction. Through more than ten years of use, either through comfort or apathy, I persevered with the same socket and it served me pretty well. My only experience with an alternative socket was that made for my spare leg (fitted to my previous ESK-based knee with a similar foot). This was never comfortable on any of the few occasions I was forced to use it!

My post-surgical rehab with a full leg and the initial forays into walking utilising a direct skeletal fixation prosthetic were spent with my faithful old leg suitably modified for implant attachment. At this early stage the leg felt fine to me but my physio spotted early on that a lack of yield in stance mode and for slope descent was holding back my progress. The ITAP was allowing me to push beyond the capabilities of my old leg (see the video below, watch it until the end!).

As a result of some cooperation between Stanmore Implants (the manufacturers of ITAP) and Ossur, I was very fortunate to be given a leg based upon the rheo knee.

Rheo knee based leg with ITAP failsafe

Rheo knee based leg with ITAP failsafe

Making use of a microprocessor-controlled magnetorheological damper, the rheo knee is capable of intelligently learning the gait of the user and rapidly adjusting the resistance of the knee to produce a smooth and natural gait under a wide range of circumstances (this description was not ‘borrowed’ from the Ossur website but written by me after experiencing the rheo first hand).  The utility of this system was initially demonstrated to me by the way in which the knee was set up after getting the componentry aligned – I simply went for a walk!  Over the first two-hundred steps, which had to be at varying speeds from slow to fast, the rheo knee got an initial impression of how I walked.  It then went on to refine its gait data during subsequent use.  As I hadn’t used a yielding knee before I was also given initial instruction in how to walk downstairs foot-over-foot once more.  This was a fairly strange experience after fifteen years of essentially hoping downstairs but one that I got used to quite quickly!

Stair descent video…

Since that first day of rheo use I have taken it (or it has take me!) to some unusual places such as the summit of Kilimanjaro, which required a novel battery charging solution being somewhat away from mains power!  I have used it to cycle to work, scale Scottish mountains using crampons, expand my crampon use into the Atlas Mountains in Morocco and walk over forty miles in one go.   The smoothness of the mechanism is always refreshing when I switch back to it from using another knee and the yielding can be used for far more adventurous pursuits than stair descent.  I am very fortunate to have been given the chance to use the rheo and wonder what further adventures await us!