This week two Utah veterans became the first amputees with surgically-implanted prosthetics.
It’s the first procedure of its kind performed in the United States according the Department of Veterans Affairs. As part of a VA-funded and FDA-approved study, surgeons at the VA hospital in Salt Lake City began by inserting a titanium stem into the patients’ legs, above where the knee should be. In another few weeks, they’ll put in a structure where a prosthetic can attach.
Dr. Jay Agarwal is one of the surgeons who worked on the procedure. He says if it’s successful, it could mean a lot for amputees who often struggle with their uncomfortable prosthetics.
“It’s tiring,” he says. “There’s a lot of wasted energy that goes into trying to accommodate an external socket. And the hope is that we can reduce some unnecessary energy expenditures by the patient and make things easier for them.”
Agarwal and his team say it will take at least a year to measure if this type of surgery is feasible to perform on other patients. Even then, Dr. Erik Kubiak says it could still take decades before the procedure is commercially available.
“The FDA process from the beginning to the end is probably a surgeon’s career,” says Kubiak.
The doctors say the surgery went well for both patients, who are now recovering.