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Brazilians are developing an active prosthesis to give movement to amputees

The dream of walking again is closer for amputees. Brazilian researchers are developing an active prosthesis to help patients recover.

The device can help those who have undergone a transfemoral amputation (or hip amputation as it is known) perform routine activities such as walking and climbing stairs to affordably improve the user’s life.

“Passive prostheses do not transmit any energy and limit the user’s ability to walk, while active prostheses are able to provide and dissipate this energy similar to how our body works,” says Professor Raffael Andrade from the Department of Mechanical Engineering. , from the Federal University of Espirito Santo (UFES), which coordinates the laboratory with research in robotics and biomechanics.

How does it work?

The mechanism is powered by two 200-watt motors connected to the knees and feet of the rig.

As an example, Andrade noted that “for example, when you get up from a chair, you do a muscle contraction, and an active prosthesis is able to perform this procedure.”

has sensors

Prosthetic movement occurs through sensors and actuators, which are devices that interpret the user’s movement intent and convert electrical energy from the battery into mechanical energy.

“We put sensors on the prosthesis that will help the user to have more synchronous movement. The actuator, which can be electric, pneumatic or hydraulic, is the mechanism attached to the prosthesis that will allow the user’s leg to move,” said the scientist.

According to Andrade, the mechanism changes a bit when it comes to the leg. “In the case of developing a leg prosthesis, it is done electrically using motors.”

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the price of the prosthesis

Another difference is the cost of the prototype. According to the professor, a complete robotic lower limb prosthesis commercialized on the market can reach $100,000, approximately R$500,000, which makes it difficult to distribute it free of charge through the Unified Health System (SUS), as is currently the case.

“We are working to reduce costs and make prosthetics accessible to people. We are looking for a balance between cost and the necessary functionality, so that a person can walk slowly or quickly, climb stairs and ramps, and even run at a light jog,” he said.

To reduce the cost and weight of the prosthesis under development, the prototype has limited power and is therefore not indicated for, for example, users who want to engage in high-impact activities such as street running.

“The idea of ​​our lab is to use robotic devices to rehabilitate and help people with motor limitations,” said the professor, who is also working on making the (still inexpensive) prosthesis affordable and available. by SUS (Health Unique System).

amputees in Brazil

According to a survey by the UFES laboratory, 246,000 lower limb amputations related to the legs or feet were registered in Brazil in the last decade, according to the Brazilian Society of Angiology and Vascular Surgery.

The project, which can improve the quality of life of these people, has financial support from the Espirito Santo Research and Innovation Support Fund (Fapes), the Financier of Studies and Projects (Finep) and the Federal University of Espirito Santo (UFES).

Active leg prosthesis for amputees developed by UFES scientists – Photo: reproduction / UFES

With information from UFES

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