The search for optimization options repeatedly leads us down new paths and to creative solutions which mean improved quality of life for patients. That is the yardstick by which Ottobock products are measured: Quality for Life. This requirement was clearly the focus during the development of the C-Leg®. It was our goal to implement, for the first time, an electronically controlled leg prosthesis system that offers the amputee more safety and comfort on the one hand, and at the same time makes a higher level of activity and a natural gait pattern possible. Combined with carbon prosthesis feet, the C-Leg® has set a new standard for leg amputees as a modern, high-performance system solution.
We also continuously developed these technologies further and achieved an astounding result. Comparative biomechanical data show that today, the absorption, storage, and return of movement energy when walking with a carbon foot largely return the same measurement result as for a natural foot.
Here, the individual components supplement each other to create a prosthesis system which, due to the correct combination of all components, generates “added value” for the patient. The “Osseointegration” research project also serves this purpose. The goal is a prosthesis system with a direct connection to the skeleton, so that the patient also receives direct biofeedback when, for example, stepping down, and therefore improves his or her proprioception.
Sensitive Combination of Body and Technology
Securely gripping a glass, using the car keys, or writing a letter – for people without disabilities, all of this is perfectly normal. For arm amputees, these activities once again become a matter of course with our SensorHand Speed. This is made possible by myoelectric control of artificial hands using the patient’s muscle signals. They are read as minimal electric impulses by electrodes on the skin, and are amplified. As switch impulses, they control powerful micro-motors in the prosthesis hand. Currently, the most highly developed myoelectric prosthesis is the DynamicArm; the first fittings took place in 2005. It currently comes closest to the movement pattern of a natural arm.
In addition to prosthetics, orthotics are gaining strategic importance for Ottobock. In particular, therapy with orthoses is effective in case of limited mobility caused by illness, an accident, or age. For the first time, Ottobock has transferred experiences regarding the interaction of mechanics and electronics in prosthesis systems to orthotics. The E-MAG Control improves safety because the knee joint can be electromagnetically unlocked using a remote control and signals the respective status of the setting to the user. This technology is particularly beneficial for persons with pronounced limited mobility for whom reaching for a strictly mechanical orthosis joint can represent a risk.
With neurological and electrostimulation, we have entered a whole new field of medical technology fittings. Our first product is the ActiGait® neural implant, a microtechnology rehabilitation aid which offers persons with weakness of dorsiflexion of the foot a higher level of safety and marked improvement of their walking ability. This new development will be beneficial for people whose central nervous system has been damaged, but where the function of the peripheral nerves and of the muscles is still intact. For us, helping these people to return to their normal lives is one of the most exciting challenges of the immediate future.
Functional electrotherapy is another promising segment. For example, it can be beneficial during rehabilitation after a stroke or in case of central nervous system damage; we are also looking at incomplete quadriplegia. The electric stimulation of – even complex – movement patterns, combined with the use of biofeedback functions, activates the ability of the human brain to reestablish – in undamaged areas of the brain – the structures that are no longer available in damaged areas. The medical technology company Ottobock is working on these new technologies for people intensively and with a sense of responsibility, and sees enormous global growth potential for this product segment.