The Breakthrough Bionic Arm for Upper Limb Amputees

In development for nearly a decade, the revolutionary Luke Arm will soon be available. Designed and produced by Segway creator Dean Kamen’s company, DEKA, and funded through the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), Next Step has partnered in the critical fit and testing since the beginning of the project.  Approved by the FDA in 2014, the Luke Arm represents Life Under Kinetic Evolution.

Bionic ArmWhat sets the Luke Arm apart? Simply put, its intuitive integration into the user’s body movements. The human arm and hand with its opposable thumb and five independently articulated fingers, is incredibly complex and capable. The prosthesis uses electrodes placed on the amputated limb (above the elbow or below the elbow) to pick up electrical signals from the user’s muscles. Compared to the typical prosthesis controlled by switches or buttons, or even controlled manually, the Luke Arm is capable of extremely fine as well as flexible movements. What does it feel like for an amputee to be able to reach over their head to pluck an apple from a tree or pick up a heavy piece of equipment, or delicately peel a banana? Now it will be possible for amputees to experience these and many more life experiences that they haven’t been able to since losing their limb.

Kamen’s group even tackled the key reason amputees don’t wear their prosthetic limb – comfort. Unlike the traditional connection method that relies on the greatest possible surface area contact between flesh and the prosthetic arm (causing friction, heat, and pain), Randy Alley, C.P. from Biodesigns, Inc.  in Westlake Village, California, along with assistance from Next Step, developed a socket that was made for the Luke Arm called the Hi Fidelity Interface, this socket is also adaptable to traditional prostheses. Continue reading “The Breakthrough Bionic Arm for Upper Limb Amputees”

5 Common Home Modifications for Recent Amputees

home modifications amputeesAs a new amputee, you may find that your home or apartment doesn’t exactly fit your needs. You may have trouble reaching items on high shelves, stepping up or down a steep or narrow set of stairs, or maintaining balance on a gravel walkway. Take comfort in knowing that you’ll have a much easier time getting around as you get more comfortable using your prosthesis. At the beginning though, you may want to make some modifications to meet your immediate needs.  Continue reading “5 Common Home Modifications for Recent Amputees”

What’s New: Elevated Vacuum Systems

Recently, Gary Hook from Ottobock came in to educate the Next Step staff on the Elevated Vacuum System, and the results were exciting. Although we know that each client has unique needs, we are excited to add yet another area of expertise to the Next Step toolbox!

A Strong Connection. 

The Elevated Vacuum System uses a pump unit to create a vacuum between liner and socket. In addition to providing an excellent socket fit, this vacuum prevents volume loss and typical fluctuations throughout the day. Amputees also report that it helps make their prosthesis feel more stable, as a more natural extension of their body. One study has also shown that a prosthetic fitting with this system promotes residual limb blood circulation.

Continue reading “What’s New: Elevated Vacuum Systems”

Aqua Symphonie Demonstration: James Montgomery

The Symphonie Aqua System is the most advanced socket casting process in the world today, and Next Step is proud to be the only area prosthetics company using it. One of the key advantages of the system is that it allows Next Step clients to be fully weight-bearing while being fitted. Next Step Prosthetist, Jason Lalla, explains, “It’s ideal because we are designing the prosthesis to stand and walk on, not to be sitting in a chair.”

Featured in this video demonstrating the Symphonie Aqua System with Jason is Next Step client, James Montgomery.

Continue reading “Aqua Symphonie Demonstration: James Montgomery”

Back to the Future of Prosthetics

If you’re over 30 years old, you may remember that in the Back to the Future movies, the future was 2015 (wow, we’re there already??). When Marty, Doc Brown and Jennifer hit 88mph in their DeLorean time machine, they were greeted with flying cars running on Plutonium, anti-gravity hoverboards, and food rehydrators, among many other cool inventions. While many of these have yet to exist (though we still have nearly a year to get there); the writers of those classic movies weren’t able to predict the future of prosthetics, which is pretty incredible in 2015.

Here are a few of the futuristic inventions that we’re seeing changing the lives of amputees:  Continue reading “Back to the Future of Prosthetics”

Skateboarding on a Prosthesis – Ripping it up at the Skate Parks

It’s always amazing for us to see what clients can do with the right prosthetic technology and the right fit. Today’s prosthetic limbs are designed with active lifestyles in mind, and amputees are certainly doing everything they can to push themselves to the limits and beyond.

Over the past couple years, we’ve seen clients maneuver on ripstick skateboards and compete in skate park competitions. The ability to turn and flex your ankles and knees on advanced prosthetic legs has opened the doors to amputees who want to show off their mad skills on ramps, rails, and jumps.

Of course, the technological advancements of these new prosthetic limbs are only one small piece of the puzzle. For a skater to be able to maneuver deftly on their board, catch air (and land!), and carve turns on a vertical wall, the fit of their limb and socket must be absolutely perfect. Any small variation from a perfect fit would cost them the ability to make such tight, specific and fast movements.

And of course the skill, determination, and athleticism of the skater are what sets them apart from the crowd. The best technology and fit in the world can’t compensate for an individual who doesn’t practice and commit to their skill, and we’re proud to see that many of our clients push themselves daily to improve their skills, to take their abilities to the next level, and to break all boundaries.

Just check out one recent video from our client Andrew to see what’s possible:

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Waterproof Prosthetic Limbs

If you’ve ever wished that you could wear your prosthetic leg in the water, to surf, swim, water ski, or enjoy other summer sports, you may be interested in the waterproof X3 prosthesis, recently brought to market by Ottobock.

Next Step Bionics and Prosthetics clients Sean and Jack are a few of the first in southern New Hampshire to test the waterproof prosthetic leg, and their experiences have been incredibly positive. According to Jack: “[My legs] spent the afternoon in the pool!!! Love my legs. Here’s to a great summer; thanks again for helping me get the best, because with the best, I can do my best!!!!”

To learn more about the X3 Waterproof Prosthesis and determine whether it is a good fit for your lifestyle and budget (this is not usually considered medically necessary by insurance providers), contact Next Step Bionics & Prosthetics.

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Swimming for Amputees: Avoiding Water Damage

Whether your idea of cooling off in the summer involves floating on ocean waves, jet skiing, swimming in the lake, or splashing around in the pool, you’ll want to know the best ways to ensure that you can enjoy those long summer days in the water without discomfort, and without damaging your prosthesis.

Throughout the summer, we want our clients to get the most out of each day and enjoy their activities to the fullest. During the shortest season of the year in New England, we understand just how important it is to be able to get the most out of every day, and keep appointments and to-do lists to a minimum.

Swimming is a wonderful activity to improve your overall health, increase endurance and stamina, and ease symptoms such as pressure sores that are associated with the daily stress put on residual limbs from the regular use of a prosthetic limb. Even an activity as simple as floating in the water relieves pressure, improves circulatory functions, and eases joint discomfort.

To get the most out of your time in the water this summer, here are a few important points to keep in mind:

  • Unless you have a waterproof prosthesis, avoid exposing your prosthesis to the water. Water can rust a prosthetic limb and can damage the sensitive mechanical components.*
  • For those without a waterproof prosthesis, the best way to spend time in the water is without your prosthetic limb. This also relieves pressure on your skin, muscles and joints.

A recent prosthetic advancement, the X3 Waterproof Prosthesis, has been developed to allow amputees the ability to enjoy the water while swimming, surfing, and participating in water activities while wearing their prosthesis, without damaging the hardware or components. Learn more about this waterproof prosthesis here.

*Some manufacturer’s warranties are voided if water damage causes your component to malfunction.