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Do It Yourself: Prosthetic Limbs

In 2004, Mark Lesak, a Tasmanian male and electronics engineer, was involved in a car accident. It saw his right arm torn from his body. The remaining twisted wreck had to be amputated, and the entire shoulder joint had to go. This left him in a pickle, as without a shoulder joint, no existing prosthetic arm would graft to his body.

Not to be put off, he sought a second opinion, and a third. He travelled across Australasia, in search of a prosthetic arm that could be fitted directly to his torso. Nothing worked, and it looked like he was doomed to be one-armed for the rest of his life.

However, nothing keeps a good engineer down. If it doesn't exist, design something to do the job.

That is precisely what Mark Lesak did. A chance TV broadcast; a documentary about osseointegration caught his eye.

Osseointegration is the direct integration of metal into living bone, typically still inside a patient. The metal is effectively fused to the bone, strengthening both. This joining then allows prosthetics to be connected directly to the metal structure which often protrudes through the skin. In turn, the full weight of the prosthetic is taken up by the bone, allowing the prosthetic to be significantly heavier – up to 40% heavier – than ones which are attached to soft tissue only.

This chance viewing lead to him asking doctors in Australia if it was possible to do this to him - insert metal into his skeleton to recreate the hook of the shoulder socket. It wasn't, or so he was told. Not on that continent, certainly. So, Mark went further afield. He ended up in Sweden, being assessed by the pioneering Br?nemark Osseointegration Centre.

The assessment was positive, and under the Br?nemark centre's ministrations, Mark gained a metal bolt fused with his shoulder blade, which snuck out through his skin above where his armpit should be, and just hung there, begging for something to be attached to it.

The doctors' job finished for now, Mark began the next stage of his cunning plan. The position of the bolt in a shoulder blade meant that Mark could point and direct the bolt forwards, backwards, up and down. This was a rudimentary control system, and he was still an electronics engineer.

With the aid of a comrade in arms, Mark built himself a new arm. Actually, he built half a dozen new arms, all of which were custom fit to the metal bolt sticking out of his side. All of which used the simple motions Mark could make, to control motors in the arms.

If nothing exists to do the job you desire, make it yourself. One man and his arm.

References

DIY Culture Now Encompasses Home Made Prosthesis

Mark armed with belief

Virtual Dictionary: Osseointegration

Br?nemark Osseointegration Center

 

Staff Comments

 


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