Lower limb amputees have a ‘phantom limb’ phenomenon which means they suddenly feel an itch in their leg and unconsciously attempt to scratch. They are reminded of loss of limb. This is due to the signal sent from the severed nerve endings.
This will be a thing of the past if the first artificial leg capable of transmitting feelings pioneered by Professor Hubert Egger, from the University of Linz, Austria, reaches production stage. He also rocked the world by his mind-controlled prosthetic arm showcased in 2010.
The concept of ‘feeling’ limb works as follows:
- Light weight prosthesis is fitted to the amputee.
- Six sensors are fitted to the sole.
- The sensors are connected to the remaining nerve endings in the stump.
- These are rewired to healthy tissue in the patients thigh.
- The skin receptors tell the brain that there is a foot there by removing the phantom pain also.
Apart from utility value the artificial limbs make the amputees feel that they have real limbs and not a substitute. The amputees fitted with the limb with sensors say it is like a second lease of life to them enabling them to feel the grass and sand when they walk on them.
We do hope a day will come when the upper limb amputee also gets ‘feeling’ prosthesis.