Prosthetics that never have to be removed

There are 1.7 million Americans living without an arm or a leg. This year alone, 65,000 more people will undergo an amputation.

Now, there is a medical breakthrough that could change their lives.

The show Baghdad ER depicts the reality of war at a combat support hospital firsthand, and it inspired Dr. Ronald Hugate.

"For four months we just saw, you know, a lot of traumatic amputations," said Hugate.

He came home to help people like Woody Roseland, 16, who lost his lower leg to cancer.

"Seeing patients like Woody, who are here, you know, a normal high school kid playing football that has a cancer, that really motivates you to try and make things better," said Hugate.

And Hugate has used that motivation to fuel his research into a new type of prosthetic implant.

"I can't wait to see it change people's lives," said Roseland.

In the University of Denver Human Dynamics Lab, Woody's movements are caught on video with an infra-red tracking system.

Engineering students use the data to design a prosthetic that attaches to a post inside the remaining part of the leg. Skin grows into the trabecular metal lining.

"The implant is no longer fitting around the skin, it is just snapping to the end of this prosthetic,” said Hugate. “So, it would improve the life of amputees exponentially."

An improvement that makes this procedure the first step to helping patients feel whole again.

The permanent prosthetic design could eliminate the current socket technology that can be painful and tiring.

Hugate says he thinks a permanent prosthetic could restore function to nearly normal, especially for young active people.

He expects it will take another three or four years before the permanent prosthetic is ready for people.


REPORT: MB #3703

BACKGROUND: Prosthetic legs have truly evolved since the Greek and Roman times. Once made from wood and leather, and evolving into molds that resemble exact replicas of the original limb or body part, prosthetics have changed the lives of amputees for the better. To receive a prosthetic limb, an individual must have experienced a traumatic accident which caused him or her to sacrifice one or multiple limbs. This is commonly seen from ex-soldiers and veterans, but can affect anyone with an illness. The prosthetic is custom built to the patient's unique figure then is fitted to the patient several weeks after the amputation surgery has been completed. (Source:

THE LOSS OF A LIMB: Limbs can be amputated for a number of reasons: cancer, birth defects, circulation problems or traumatic accidents are all deciding factors of amputation. After amputation surgery, prosthetics are addressed to the patient, depending on the condition of the wound. The prosthetic limbs are designed to allow patients to function the same way they would before their amputation. Daily activities, such as eating and walking, are achievable after an amputation because of prosthetic limbs. (Source:

THERAPY: Physical therapy is the most important therapy a patient should complete after a prosthetic has been inserted. Therapy is vital in recovery because it will help the patient concentrate on getting healthy quicker. Benefits of physical therapy entail:
• Light exercise
• Education about prosthetic
• Mobility training
• Prevention of tight joints (Source:

PERMANENT PROSTHETICS: Though prosthetics are not a new medical breakthrough, permanent prosthetics are being tested to improve the lives of those who wear prosthetic limbs. This idea came about when doctors realized that patients are not able to function to their full potential when they have to attach a prosthetic limb into the socket of the place of the amputation. If a patient is to gain weight or has skin issues, the socket may not be completely compatible with the change. A permanent prosthetic has been used in Europe for decades now, and doctors are trying to perfect the technology of a permanent prosthetic so patients do not have to waste time and energy on a detachable limb. The permanent implant attaches directly to the bone and becomes a part of the patient. More studies need to be done before it is guaranteed, but researchers have seen success with animals and are working to make this a safe and successful product. Dr. Hugate expects it will take another three or four years before the permanent prosthetic is ready for people. (Source: Dr. Ronald Hugate, MD)


Ronald Hugate MD
The Denver Clinic
Board Certified Orthopedic Surgeon
Orthopedic Oncology and Adult Reconstruction
Presbyterian/Saint Luke's Medical Center

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