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Bionic Ankles Provide New Spring In The Step Of Amputees

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DENVER (CBS4) The technology in prosthetics is going bionic.

For years prosthetic limbs have done a really good job of replacing an amputee’s bones, but they haven’t had good range of motion. Now, with the help of battery power and computers, prosthetic limbs are getting better at providing range of motion.

Jesse Murphree lost both his legs in a road side bomb in northern Afghanistan. He’s been walking on prosthetic legs for about three years.

“It’s not the same … as natural as if you have legs. But definitely I’m to the point of … I don’t look at it as hard anymore,” Murphree told CBS4.

It is tiring. Murphree’s legs were amputated above the knee, so he relies on his hips to help him walk. Now his prosthetist at Presbyterian/St. Luke’s Medical Center is fitting him with new bionic ankles, which will give him more spring in his step.

Biom ankles have been around for about 4 years and so far 800 patients have been fitted with them. Murphree is one of only three patients with above the knee amputations that will be using them. The bionic ankles use battery power and computer technology to allow the foot to push of the ground and propel it forward, making an amputee’s stride more normal.

“So it gives him the ability to normalize his gate by using the up and down functions that the computerized ankle has,” said Dr. Allison Franklin of the Denver Clinic for Extremities at Risk at Presbyterian/St. Luke’s Medical Center.

“So it’s less strenuous,” Murphree added.

The bionic ankles allow Murphree to walk more naturally, and that will cut down on over-use injuries. They’ll also allow him to walk longer without getting as tired. In the long term, Franklin says Murphree will have less pain in his hips and back because of the ankles. All that goes towards the war veteran to have a better quality of life.

–Written for CBSDenver.com by Special Projects Producer Libby Smith

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