The Future of Prosthetics is Happening Now at Walter Reed

Highlight: The Future of Prosthetics is Happening Now at Walter Reed

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Navy Cmdr. (Dr.) Jonathan Forsberg helped to conceive the DoD’s Osseointegration program while heading the Department of Regenerative Medicine at the Naval Medical Research Center (Photo courtesy of AJ Simmons)

Navy Cmdr. (Dr.) Jonathan Forsberg helped to conceive the DoD’s Osseointegration program while heading the Department of Regenerative Medicine at the Naval Medical Research Center (Courtesy of the U.S. Department of Defense)

A state of the art development is making it possible for a prosthetic device to become an extension of a wounded service member’s body rather than an attachment to it. The seemingly futuristic process, called osseointegration, is happening now at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.

“Osseointegration is the process of attaching an external prosthesis directly to the skeleton,” Navy Cmdr. (Dr.) Jonathan A. Forsberg, one of the leaders of the osseointegration program told Soldiers Magazine last year. “The term is really defined as a metal which is rigidly attached to bone, without any intervening soft tissue.”

Trials have been happening in Europe for some time, but the clinical trials began at Walter Reed early last year. Military doctors realized osseointegration could be a better fit for service members, many of whom do not have enough soft tissue to support wearing a prosthesis. The lack of durable soft tissue can cause great pain when wounded warriors try to wear a prosthetic limb.

The Naval Medical Research and Development website details the process:

The initial surgery for osseointegration attaches a fixture or implant onto or within the bone, and the bone takes about three months to grow into the implant. The second surgery prepares the soft tissue for an attachment, called an abutment, which protrudes through the skin. Similar to the way a dental implant is secured to the jaw bone, a prosthetic limb is attached directly to the abutment.

This new process provides comfort and can even strengthen the service member’s bones.

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