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ISSUE 73 June/July 10 £6.95

Bid to relieve discomfort for UK’s amputees By Dominic Musgrave RESEARCH that could relieve pain and discomfort for thousands of Britain’s amputees is underway at two Scottish universities. According to Strathclyde and Glasgow universities, approximately half of the 62,000 people living with limb loss in the UK are affected by skin infections or irritation thought to be caused by bacteria in the prosthetic liners that separate a prosthetic limb from the skin. A clinical scientist, microbiologists, mathematicians, physicists and engineers from the universities are joining forces to help reduce the scale of the problem. The team will examine the bacterial and other microbial populations in prosthetic liners with the longterm aim of designing new technologies, including antimicrobial lining materials. The research team is being led by Dr Rebecca Lunn of the University of Strathclyde’s Department of Civil Engineering, in close collaboration with Dr Margrit Meier of Strathclyde’s National Centre for Prosthetics and Orthotics. Rebecca said: “At the moment, sockets are designed for structural performance and to

stop chaffing, but this tight connection between the prosthesis and the limb provides ideal conditions for bacterial growth. “Even if a person keeps their prosthetic socket meticulously clean, it is inevitable that bacteria will settle over its lifetime. This can lead to infection and, ultimately, a breakdown of the whole prosthetic system.” Estimates suggest that every year around 4,500 new lower-limb amputations occur within the UK, of which the large majority will be fitted with a prosthetic liner. The study will collect data on the microbial populations present in a number of liners from users who have experienced skin infections and those who have not had any problems. Experts will image and compare the size and location of microbial populations using electron microscopy; model the growth of bacteria and investigate the behaviour of bacteria in porous materials. As more information is revealed on the type and nature of the microbial populations, the team will combine their expertise to come up with ways to reduce the risk of infection. The team was awarded an 18-month £200,000 grant to develop research proposals on how to improve the biological and mechanical performance of prosthetic limbs.

Veterinary scientists at the University of Liverpool are looking for Newfoundland dogs to participate in a study that aims to develop a new test to reduce the prevalence of cruciate ligament disease in canines. And they hope that by identifying the genes that are involved in this debilitating condition, which is also common in professional sportsmen such as Tiger Woods, they can help develop a test to detect it early on.




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New device helps fit limbs less painfully By Dominic Musgrave

permanent damage might set in.

A BIOMEDICAL engineer at a university in Israel has developed a new tool to help prosthetic developers fit artificial limbs almost painlessly.

The results of this new kind of “stress test” can then be sent to a hand-held device like an iPhone to alert the patient or caregiver that an adjustment should be made.

One of its versions also tells medical workers when bed-ridden patients need to be moved to avoid bedsores and other problems.

It might even be connected to a tool to automatically stimulate the body or readjust its position.

Amit Gefen, professor at Tel Aviv University’s department of biomedical engineering, has developed the prototype for a new device he calls the Soft Tissue Stress Monitor. It is designed to ease some of the deep tissue damage and problems suffered by the amputated and infirm. Amit said: “We compare the output readings to critical levels in order to discover when a patient’s tissues are at risk for injury. “The need for such a monitor is especially urgent in diabetes patients, because many of them lose the sensation of pain altogether in their outer extremities. These patients simply can’t tell doctors where it hurts.” Amit has already developed several versions of the monitor around his new core technology. One of them measures the stress load under the buttocks of a bedridden patient. Installed in a bed or wheelchair, the tool can assess when a load is too heavy and



Potential injuries include deep tissue ulcers, which can result in painful bedsores. And in extreme cases, if left untreated, bedsores can become fatal. Amit said the monitor could also be beneficial to limb amputation surgery and the implantation of artificial limbs. He added: “Previously, I determined the best bone structures for surgeons to create when amputating a limb, and the new device can recommend the optimal angles at which reconstructed soft tissues and future artificial limbs will attach comfortably to the stub. “This is especially important because sharp pieces of bone deliver a very intense mechanical load to soft tissues such as muscles, fat and skin, and can cause serious discomfort and pain. “The tool also helps alleviate the pain in advance by showing doctors how to best adjust the prosthesis and evaluate the performance of different prostheses considered for a given patient.”

Multiple Paralympic champion Oscar Pistorius officially opened a sensory room for young people with disabilities and learning difficulties in Manchester. The room will form the centrepeice at The Royal School, Manchester, at The Seashell Trust and has been funded as a result of a three year partnership between BT and The Lord’s Taverners, a youth sports charity who encourage youngsters with special needs to participate in recreational activities within a group environment. Together the two organisations are investing £400,000 over the next three years to install multi-sensory areas that will enhance the lives of children with disabilities and learning difficulties. Picture: Oscar meets a young fan at the opening

If you’ve got a story for us please ring our healthcare editor Dominic Musgrave on 01226 734407

‘This misconduct was cold, calculated and continued over a numbers of years’ A PHYSIOTHERAPIST has been struck off the Health Professions Council register for providing false information in an employment reference to gain work and consequently caused harm to a patient. A panel of the HPC Conduct and Competence Committee heard how investigations also discovered that the academic history and qualifications of Nicola Oliver-Mendez were not accurate. Upon applying for a position at Nuffield Proactive Health and Fitness First Bath, she falsely stated on her CV that she had graduated from the

University of East London with a First Class Honours BSc (Physiotherapy) when she had actually obtained a Sports Therapy Degree from the University of North London. The panel also heard that a complaint was made by a patient after Nicola treated the patient using electrotherapy and as a result the patient sustained severe burns to their back. Chair Dr Alexander Yule said: “The Panel finds that the registrant’s conduct was more than mere elaboration of a CV but was a deep seated pattern of behaviour to misrepresent and mislead all those

who came into professional contact with her.” “The panel find that the registrant’s misconduct was based on a dishonest pattern of behaviour to further her own personal and professional advancement. “This misconduct was cold, calculated and continued over a numbers of years. “The public have a legitimate expectation to be able to rely upon the integrity and honesty of any health professional.” Nicola was neither present or represented at the hearing.

Contacts Editorial Andrew Harrod Group Editor Dominic Musgrave Healthcare Editor Email: Tel: 01226 734407 Sales Jackie Brook Email: Tel: 01226 734479

Group Sales Manager Fax: 01226 734478

Sales and Marketing Director Tony Barry Email: Circulation 24 hour hotline: 01226 734695 Design/Production Judith Halkerston Group Deputy Editor Email: Stewart Holt Email:

Studio Manager Whilst every effort is made to ensure the accuracy of all contents, the publishers do not accept liability for any error, printed or otherwise, that may occur.





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Device would put fractures back together



By Dominic Musgrave A TEAM of researchers is developing a robotics device that can put fractures back together as perfectly as possible. Dr Sanja Dogramadzi, an engineer at the University of the West of England is working with professor Roger Atkins, an orthopaedic surgeon from the Bristol Royal Infirmary and specialised software company Simpleware to enhance the management of complex, joints’ fractures using state-of-the-art 3D imaging, pattern recognition and robotics. Sanja will use CT scans of healthy and fractured joints to work out the mathematical algorithm for the exact displacement and rotation needed for each fragment to be put back together in exactly the right place. Sanja said the 3D puzzle solution will be a starting point for creating a minimally invasive surgical robotic system. He added: “In complex breaks, particularly joints, there are often many surfaces to the broken bone. Getting these to fit back together accurately is essential for the healing process. “Currently this can be solved by using open surgery, where the break is exposed and the surgeon then manipulates the bone so it fits together accurately. “However, a 3D puzzle of the broken bone, made using the information from the CT scan, would give clinicians a more accurate

An example of the 3D model

understanding of what they need to do, before surgery needed to take place. At the moment, even in open surgery, all the surfaces of the break are not visible to the surgeon.” A further phase of the work will create a robotic device which will test the 3D puzzle by putting all the broken pieces back together on a 3D model, created with specialised print technology from UWE's Centre for Fine Print Research. Ultimately it is hoped the research will lead to a robotic device which will be able to perform the minimally invasive surgery using the information from the CT scans,

under the expert control of a surgeon. Sanja added: “The ultimate aim of our research will be to create a robot which can use the 3D puzzle model to carry out bone reductions using minimally invasive surgery (keyhole surgery). “If successful we hope that this project would create better outcomes for patients. More accurate reductions without the need for open surgery means patients will heal faster with fewer complications and less need for follow-up appointments.”

Agreement drawn up on occupational physiotherapy PHYSIOTHERAPISTS calling themselves ‘occupational physiotherapists’ must make it clear to the people they treat exactly what their specialism is, and what services they offer. The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP) has drawn up an agreement with the College of Occupational Therapists after some occupational therapists expressed concern that some CSP members working in vocational rehabilitation and fit-for-work schemes described themselves in this way. 4


The agreement has been ratified by the Health Professions Council, which has advised that protected titles can be used in conjunction with a descriptor. The agreement advises physiotherapists working in these fields to use their professional discretion and judgement to decide how best to describe their role. It suggests 'occupational health physiotherapist' or 'physiotherapist (occupational health)' as possibilities. CSP chair Ann Green said: “I am delighted the CSP has been able to

work with COT to produce a statement that promotes the value of chartered physiotherapists' and occupational therapists' roles in providing increasingly needed services in occupational health and vocational rehabilitation and in leading and supporting 'fit for work' initiatives. “The statement should both promote the professions' respective roles and guide and support CSP and COT members on using titles to convey their specialist services and expertise.”




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Simple solution sought for foot problems RESEARCHERS are hoping to provide a simple, inexpensive solution to the painful foot problems experienced by people with scleroderma, a rare but serious connective tissue disorder.

thickening of body tissues (fibrosis) due to the over-production of collagen. Skin, blood vessels and internal organs become constricted, stiff and damaged, and until recently the disease was often fatal.

Arthritis Research UK senior lecturer in the Foot and Ankle group at Chapel Allerton Hospital in Leeds, Dr Tony Redmond, is co-ordinating a clinical trial of 140 patients from Leeds, Manchester and London to test the effectiveness of a cushioning, warming insole in people whose feet are affected by the condition.

Tony, senior lecturer at the Leeds Institute of Molecular Medicine at Leeds University, said: “Patients have told us that painful foot problems stop them doing normal activities, and were important enough to them for us to do something about it.

The study is being funded by a £200,000 grant from medical research charity Arthritis Research UK. Scleroderma affects around 5,000 people in the UK and leads to

“What we are doing is a genuinely pragmatic study. We are testing insoles that are cheap and already commercially available and can be used by anyone – a nurse or a GP – it doesn’t have to be a specialist podiatrist. We think this simple intervention could make a big

difference to many patients – at very little cost.” In collaboration with two other specialist scleroderma centres, Salford Royal Hospital and the Royal Free Hospital in London, groups of patients will be allocated at random to receive either the treatment insoles or sham insoles, without the cushioning or thermal properties, to wear for 12 weeks. Patients taking part in the trial in Leeds will also take part in an exploratory study in the university’s motion analysis laboratory to help researchers establish the cause of their foot problems. The team believes that the insoles may counteract the loss of the fat pad underneath the foot and will explore the effect of cushioning under the ball of the foot.

Dr Tony Redmond

Occupational therapist suspended for a year AN occupational therapist has been suspended from the Health Professions Council register for a year for failing to demonstrate adequate understanding of the role. A panel of the HPC Conduct and Competence Committee heard how Parkavi Thiruvengadem was employed as a band six occupational therapist in Orthopaedic Rehabilitation with NHS Greater Glasgow from May 2005 until February 2006 when she was demoted to a basic grade band five following an incident in which she had provided inappropriate equipment to a patient. The panel further heard that Parkavi also failed to note that there were ongoing issues with assessment and treatment planning identified in the registrant’s final rotation. Asmir Begovic has his feet checked by podiatrist Mike Hooper at the opening

Stoke footballer opens new headquarters STOKE City goalkeeper Asmir Begovic officially opened an orthotics manufacturer’s new Staffordshire headquarters.


More than 100 medical professionals toured The Langer Group’s factory, which also brings together under one roof TM Custom and RX


Laboratories, whom the company bought last year. The move has led to the recruitment of 15 new staff in a variety of roles.

Chair Ian Crookall said: “The panel has not heard evidence to suggest that the matters which amount to a lack of competence have been addressed and therefore finds that there is a subsisting negative impact on the registrant’s current fitness to practice. “The panel is of the view that a suspension would be a proportionate sanction and would address their concerns as to public safety and the wider public interest.” Parkavi was present and represented at the hearing.




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Bebionic manufacturers overwhelmed by response received at congress



A NEW upper extremity prosthetic product range from RSL Steeper has been fully launched to the international market. The Bebionic system, unveiled at the combined International Society for Prosthetics and Orthotics World Congress and Orthopädie and Reha-Technik trade show, includes an adult hand featuring four functional grip patterns – tripod, power, key and finger point.

function for active everyday living.” Each articulated digit is driven by individual actuators, causing each finger to move and grip in a natural and coordinated way, providing compliant and conformable grips around complex shapes. The hand has two user selectable thumb positions – opposed and non-opposed, with an in-built sensor detecting the thumb position.

This allows amputees to perform everyday activities such as eating, drinking, writing, typing, turning a key in a lock, using an ATM and picking up small objects.

On board microprocessors constantly monitor the position of the fingers so that grip sequences are accurate ensuring a confident and reliable grip for the user every time.

Product sales director Paul Steeper said the hand is fully proportional, allowing the user to control the speed and strength of the hand.

The hand electronics also include an auto grip feature that senses if the gripped item is slipping, and will automatically provide additional power to maintain a secure and safe hold.

He added: “We were overwhelmed with the level of interest and enthusiasm bebionic received at the Congress. “The feedback from those visiting the stand, including clinicians and end users has been truly outstanding. Our advanced technology offers unique features combined with a life-like design, and at a reasonable price offers amputees worldwide improved aesthetics and dynamic

The range is complemented with the addition of a highly cosmetic robust silicone glove featuring an integral mesh for durability. Each glove is available in a choice of 19 skin shades in male or female finishes. Bebionic will be available from distributors worldwide shortly.

Flip-flops are easier on the knees – study By Dominic Musgrave FLIP-FLOPS and trainers with flexible soles are easier on the knees than clogs or even special walking shoes, a study in America has found. The research by Rush University Medical Center said the findings were important as loading on the knee joints is a key factor in the development of osteoarthritis. Dr. Najia Shakoor, a rheumatologist at Rush and the primary author of the study, said: “Traditionally, footwear has been engineered to provide maximum support and comfort for the foot, with little attention paid to the biomechanical effects on the rest of the leg. “But the shoes we wear have a substantial impact on the load on the knee joints, particularly when we walk. “Our study demonstrated that flat, flexible footwear significantly reduces the load on the knee joints compared with supportive, stable shoes with less flexible soles.” Shakoor and her colleagues analysed the gait of 31 patients with symptoms of osteoarthritis in the Rush Motion Analysis Lab, while they walked barefoot and with four 8


popular shoe types: Dansko clogs, which are often worn by healthcare professionals who have to be on their feet much of the day; Brooks Addiction stability shoes, which are prescribed for foot comfort and stability; Puma H-Street shoes, a flat athletic shoe with flexible soles; and flip-flops. The loads on the knee joints differed significantly depending on the footwear. For the clogs and stability shoes, the loads on the knee joints were up to 15 per cent greater than with the flat walking shoes, flip-flops or barefoot walking. Knee loading was roughly the same whether the subject wore flips-flops or walked barefoot. Shakoor added: "Currently, knee braces and wedged orthotic shoe inserts are used to relieve the load on the knee joints of patients with osteoarthritis, but everyday footwear is also a factor to consider. “The results in our study demonstrate that the reduction in load achieved with different footwear, from 11 to 15 per cent, is certainly comparable to reduction in load with braces and shoe inserts.”



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Kate with Sharks player Mike Cook

Unique partnership leads to physio Kate’s appointment A UNIQUE partnership between a healthcare company and a basketball team has helped to support the appointment of a specialist physiotherapist. B. Braun Medical Ltd, which has its UK headquarters in Sheffield, are the Sharks’ headline patron, and the team have appointed Kate Watson to work with players for the current season on injury assessment and rehabilitation. Having worked in a number of specialist areas, including neurology and orthopaedics, she decided to specialise in sports physiotherapy and has previously worked with football and rugby teams in Sheffield, and is now studying for a Masters in Sports Injury Management and Therapy.

Kate said: “It is vital to work with athletes to educate them about their own bodies, movement patterns and control. “This will help, in the long-term, to reduce the volume and severity of injuries. It is fantastic to work with the Sharks team as they are all so proactive and enthusiastic, taking on board the help and advice that I give them.” The partnership is also supporting the basketball team’s award-winning community project, Bounce Back to Health, which aims to get local youngsters into sport. The scheme uses basketball stars and health care staff to deliver targeted messages around health care issues such as obesity, healthy eating, exercise and smoking.

New wheelchair rental facility launched by RNOH THE Friends of the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital (RNOH) has launching a new wheelchair rental facility. Wheels 4 Ease will operate from the Patients' Centre at the Stanmore site, and the service will offer short-term wheelchair hire for local users and patients of the RNOH. Founder Jon Marx said: “We have purchased a number of manual wheelchairs, which are easy to

operate. The hiring costs are low and all proceeds will go towards the RNOH. "We hope local patients and wheelchair users will come to us as their first port of call as we are keen to meet our community's needs and raise money for the RNOH at the same time. All wheelchair users will be given comprehensive training before hiring and the wheelchair maintenance will be taken care of." ASSISTIVE TECHNOLOGIES I JUNE/JULY 2010





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A Paralympic swimmer has started a course at his local college. Dominic Musgrave found out more.

David Hill at college

How swimmer David always takes on a challenge DAVID Hill is currently studying for a Carpentry and Joinery Level 1 Diploma at City of Bath College, despite a disability which means he has no left arm below the elbow. The 21-year-old, who reached the final of the 100m backstroke at the 2004 Games in Athens, is combining his studies with training and competing as a top Olympic athlete. David told Assistive Technologies he has adapted some of the equipment he uses in the workshop to make life easier for himself.

in the workshop environment watching him design and make. Throughout my life, if someone said I couldn’t do something, the desire would grow to do it and I’d take on the challenge.

Games but, despite winning a bronze medal at the World Championships in South Africa in 2006, just missed out on qualification for the Paralympics in Beijing two years later.

“I’ve had to adapt all my life and this was no different. I’ve made a series of adaptations to the tools we use so that I can have the control I need to complete a piece of work. I recently made my own saw guide which has been so useful.”

He added: “I only really went to Athens for the experience and to be around the Team GB squad, so it was a massive shock when I made it to the finals. It was an amazing experience.

He added: “I wanted to study carpentry as I have a passion for being creative with wood. It’s also a great challenge.

David began swimming as a youngster near his family home in Exmouth, Devon. It was when he joined his local club that his natural talent was recognised, and coaches encouraged him to go further.

“My granddad was a woodwork enthusiast and I used to love being

He was the youngest British competitor aged 15 at the 2004

“To qualify for London 2012 is my next aim, and I’m getting ready to step up my training at the University of Bath, where I am part of Team Bath. “It’s not going to be easy, athletes just seem to get better and faster all the time, but I’ll be giving it my best shot. I’ll need to improve to make sure I can get there.”

David Hill

New physio service to operate at health centre AN extreme mountaineer and climber demonstrated his skills at the official opening of Physiotherapy @ One Medicare. The new service is a joint venture between One Medicare and Hallamshire Physiotherapy, allowing a team of experienced chartered physiotherapists to deliver treatment from a Sheffield City GP Health Centre. The bespoke service will allow anyone to book appointments for diagnosis and treatment on any issue or concern, in the accessible city 10

centre location. Dr Steve Hodgson, of Physiotherapy @ One Medicare, added: “We recognised a need for this type of care, as a large proportion of the patients visiting the health centre every day have issues that could be resolved by physiotherapy. “The new Physiotherapy @ One Medicare service means that we are now able to reach out to office workers, sports enthusiasts and Sheffield residents, offering them a high quality service, in an easily accessible location, at a time to suit them.”


Extreme mountaineer and climber, Ian Parnell at the opening of Physiotherapy @ One Medicare with Emelia Spencer, operations manager of the Sheffield City GP Health Centre and Dr Steve Hodgson.



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‘Better sight’ hope from study THOUSANDS of people who are partially-sighted following stroke or brain injury could gain greater independence from a simple, cheap and accessible training course, according to a new study.



The new research has found that a computer-based technique developed and assessed by Durham University improved partially-sighted people’s ability to ‘see’ better. It may eventually improve and broaden the portfolio of rehabilitation techniques for partially-sighted patients. The study, which the researchers believe could eventually be delivered from mobile phones or hand-held games consoles, tested the technique on patients who suffer from a condition affecting their sight called hemianopia. Patients’ visual ability before and after the training was tested, and researchers found that patients became faster and more accurate at detecting objects, such as coloured dots or numbers, on a computer screen. Lead researcher, Dr Alison Lane, from the university’s Psychology Department, said: “This research shows us that basic training works in getting people to use their ‘poor’ visual side better.

Nichola Burlison who took part in the research with Dr Alison Lane

“Although we are not yet sure why this happens, we think it might be because training increases their attention, concentration and awareness of their ‘blind’ field. “We think attention is key in improving people’s abilities to use their limited vision. This simple technique is a very viable rehabilitation option and in future could be easily accessible at low cost to everyone who needs it.”

The Durham study compared two types of rehabilitation techniques – one focused on exploration and the other on attention. Neither training option is currently available on the NHS although alternative training programmes can be bought privately. The research, which tested 46 patients, found that the basic attention training without the need for patients to move their eyes extensively was for the most part as

effective at rehabilitation as the more specialised exploration technique. The scientists say patients may even be able to see similar improvements in their vision by playing mainstream computer games, particularly those whereby you need to scan virtual environments with your eyes. The research was funded by the Medical Research Council, Economic and Social Research Council, and supported by the charity Action for Blind People.






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A fallen war hero is defying the odds and walking once more through a rigorous training regime. Dominic Musgrave found out more.


Ben battles on to walk again PARATROOPER Ben Parkinson suffered 37 separate horrific injuries including the loss of both legs fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan. But with the help of his stepfather Andy Dernie, he has been visiting Doncaster Dome’s Fitness Village a few times a week, exercising his core muscles to build up his strength so he can learn to walk again with his mechanical legs. Andy said: “At the time, Ben was the most seriously injured soldier there had ever been in Britain and doctors never thought he’d never survive let alone come out of hospital. “Some people didn’t really know how to react when it happened, because everything seemed so difficult. “But I tend to do what I can to help, and if it means helping Ben with his physiotherapy and training I’ll do that and stick at it, because I know Ben will walk again eventually unaided – and he’s not far off.” Ben was unable to get to a hospital



for an hour and half after he was hit by the roadside bomb explosion on patrol in 2006. His two collapsed lungs, broken arm, leg, chest and rib cage injuries along with a back broken in five places and a damaged spleen, meant he had to undergo a massive operation to correct his spine a year later, on the day he should have been celebrating his birthday. But the operation dramatically improved his condition and now his training has seen him go from strength to strength, improving his walking technique and giving him a social environment to boost his work out morale. Andy added: “I think a lot of people are starting to realise that Ben will do it and at the Dome we put the legs on using two string pulleys with handles on, so he can lower himself down, helping him use every muscle and continuing to build him.

Ben Parkinson with his step-father Andy Dernie from walking ten yards to 100 yards. We’re hoping to double this – then we’ll just carry on.”

bench press and he’s now pumping 180 kilograms – more than double my body weight!

“Rather than getting a couple of walks a week, we’re trying to get him walking every day. We’ve gone

“We keep going until he drops and go on as many machines as we can, like the hand bike and the

He’s doing so well I know he will not give up and will safely walk on his own one day.”



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The company behind Europe’s first mind-controlled prosthetic limb has unveiled it is ready to leave the laboratory and put to everyday use. Dominic Musgrave reports.

Mind-controlled limb ready for use THE announcement is the result of a four-year project by Otto Bock Healthcare, and the next step will be to detail and cascade the surgical procedures to surgeons around the world.

this pioneering project will now be communicated to surgical centres across the world, and we look forward to witnessing its continued success with positive patient outcomes.”

This will enable them to conduct such procedures in their countries using the technique known as Targeted Muscle Reinnervation (TMR).

TMR is the revolutionary technique used to make a mind controlled arm possible so that when a patient performs movements intuitively, the prosthesis can directly convert the thought commands.

The first person to have the limbs fitted was Austrian Christian Kandlbauer, who lost both of his arms in a high voltage accident. Dr. Hubert Egger, Otto Bock’s project lead on the research, said he is the only person in the world to have passed his driving test with the use of a mind controlled, prosthetic limb.



It involves residual motor nerves in a remaining limb being redirected and connected to the nerves that are responsible for the pectoral muscles; such that the signals that were originally responsible for arm movement can be used to control the prosthesis.

He added: “This is a huge milestone in prosthetic technology which has transformed Christian’s life. It has given him an exceptionally high degree of independence and autonomy to live life as he once did, enabling him to return to work and even pass his driving test.

In Christian’s case the four main nerves in his arm were rerouted and targeted to his chest muscles. The nerves then grew to meet the chest muscles over several months, and the completed connection means that the remaining nerves in the limb can be used to assist movement in the prosthetic limb.

“The knowledge obtained during

His prosthesis currently has three

Christian Kandlbauer

joints, but a seven joint model is being developed to increase its accuracy and expand its capabilities. Otto Bock is also developing the

feeling-function of the hand, with a lab prototype already proving successful that enables him to feel with the tip of his digit finger.






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Heels ‘have no ill effects on ankles’ WEARING stilettos and other high heeled shoes has no apparent ill affect on women’s ankles, a university professor has stated at a conference. Impact-related injuries among runners were also discussed at the eighth annual Staffordshire conference on clinical biomechanics, as specialists disputed theories that barefoot running is healthier than wearing trainers. Prof Nachi Chockalingam, professor of clinical biomechanics, and his colleagues at Staffordshire University have been investigating whether high heels cause ankle problems, stiffness or issues with balance. He said: “There is anecdotal evidence that wearing high heeled footwear regularly can lead to detrimental changes in the ankle joint structures and compromise control of balance. However, there is little substantial evidence to support such a position.” His study involved 18 women aged between 19 and 42, some wearing high heels and some wearing flat shoes for an average of seven hours a day, five days a week. Results showed that, as most participants did not wear their heeled footwear for more than nine hours a day, allowing time for their joints to recover, there were no negative affects. Other speakers at the conference included Simon Bartold, a visiting fellow at Staffordshire University and international research consultant at sports shoe developer Asics. He disputed research claiming that barefoot running is better for avoiding impact-related injuries among runners than those who wear training shoes. The conference also saw experts including Prof James Richards from the University of Central Lancashire, Dr Adam Shortland (St. Guys, London) and Dr Toni Arndt (Karolinska Institute, Sweden, presenting work.

Researchers at the University of Ulster have carried out trials of specially designed computer games to help rehabilitate stroke sufferers. Dominic Musgrave found out more.

Boost for stroke sufferers from game rehabilitation project THE School of Computing and Information Engineering in Coleraine has collaborated on the project with fellow researchers at the Health and Rehabilitation Sciences Institute. The Games for Rehabilitation project, which has been funded by the Department of Employment and Learning over three years, focuses on rehabilitation of the upper limbs and involves the player using their hands and arms to touch targets which move around the screen. Their movements are tracked by a webcam and the game responds to their interaction, giving them positive feedback on their performance and engagement with the system. The design of the games and interface means people do not need to have played computer or video games in order to engage effectively with the system. Researcher James Burke, a PhD

computing student, said there have been a number of studies conducted which looked at applying novel interaction technology such as sensors and video capture to stroke rehabilitation with encouraging results. He added: “We have taken this one step further by applying the principles of game design in order to improve user engagement. Video games offer exciting potential for rehabilitation - gamers know just how engaging video games can be. “The team is working on realising this potential for engagement and applying it to stroke rehabilitation where patients often struggle to engage with therapy due to its mundane and repetitive nature.” James recently gave presentations on the team’s work at the Northern Ireland Chest Heart and Stroke conference Annual Scientific Research Conference in Belfast and

the International Conference on Games and Virtual Worlds for Serious Applications in Portugal. Dr Jacqui Crosbie, from the Health and Rehabilitation Sciences Research Institute, added: “Studies show that games which are produced mainly for entertainment purposes can be difficult for people with motor function deficit to play. “An advantage of having an interdisciplinary team of researchers across health sciences and computing means that we can design computer games specifically for stroke rehabilitation. These offer people with stroke a programme of therapy which is not only tailored to their abilities but allows them to have fun at the same time. “A feature of the games is they are designed to work with standard computer hardware, enabling them to be played in the home.”

Double shortlist success for charity


HFT has been shortlisted for two awards in recognition of its work in developing the use of personalised technology to enable people with learning disabilities live more independently.

Best Use of Technology in the Independent Healthcare Awards, which highlight the range of achievements within the independent health and care sector.

The charity for people with learning disabilities and their families has been selected as a finalist for the

Winners will be announced at a gala dinner in London in September.


Hft has also made the finals for the

National eWell-Being Awards, which identify and promote the environmental and social benefits of information and communication technology (ICT).

which recognises ICT-based projects and applications which enable elderly people, or people with disabilities, to have a better quality of life in their homes

The charity has been shortlisted for the Personalised Technology for People with Learning Disabilities in the Independent Living category,

Award winners will be announced at an event to be held at the offices of UNISON Yorkshire and Humberside in Leeds.



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University secures cash to launch feasibility study A UNIVERSITY has secured funding to launch a feasibility study into an assistive technology product accreditation scheme. Newcastle University’s Institute for Ageing and Health and Years Ahead Partnership research will be aimed at establishing a recognised product accreditation and approval scheme for independent living products. It will be supervised by leading academics from the University’s Business School. The aim of the scheme will be to encourage suppliers, manufacturers and retailers to consider the needs of the consumer, by ensuring that products and services are tested and accredited by the people they are designed for ahead of being launched. Maggie Winchcombe OBE, occupational therapist and a founder of Years Ahead, said: “We believe that the key to

promoting awareness is for these products to become more mainstream – improving availability so that products are sold through a much wider choice of outlets, both on the high street, mail order and the internet. “The market has been dominated by the state for too long and this in turn has held back innovation. “Products are, in many instances, unattractive and not designed with the needs of consumers in mind.” Research already conducted by Years Ahead found that less than 20 per cent of consumers asked would spontaneously think of buying a product to help overcome a problem with an aspect of daily living. Professor Tom Kirkwood, director of the Institute, added: “Given the demographic changes in the make up of the UK’s population the demand for assistive technology is



set to grow significantly. “We know that most people who are adversely affected by the process of ageing would prefer to stay in their own home surroundings, but that often simple tasks like preparing food or taking a bath present a major problem.” Once underway the study will consult with a wide cross section of stakeholders from the industry, retailers, government and the third sector to ensure that any scheme gains wide ranging support, as well of course as consulting with groups representing consumers. Financial support has been received from the Knowledge Transfer Partnerships programme, which aims to help businesses to improve their competitiveness and productivity through the better use of knowledge, technology and skills.

Maggie Winchcombe






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Back Saver device takes New Product of the Year award MORE than 11,500 people attended the annual Naidex exhibition at the NEC in Birmingham, making it the biggest ever.

“We aim to create an event where visitors will find the answers to all their needs under one roof – I think this year’s Naidex has achieved that.”

The UK’s first disabled model Shannon Murray opened the show, and spoke to the crowds in the Lifestyle and Demonstration area as well as meeting with exhibitors and visitors.

The KideQuip area dedicated to children’s equipment and services was again a success. Large audiences attended to learn basketball and wheelchair skills with Go Kids Go patron and BBC presenter Ade Adepitan.

Other highlights included the Sensory Garden, a new feature offering visitors the chance to be inspired by a garden, the Communication Village, home to the latest developments in assistive technology, and Meet the OT, where members of the public had the chance to get face-to-face advice and information from a qualified OT. Event director Liz Virgo added: “We had high expectations for this year’s Naidex and we’re delighted. Visitor numbers were up and business has been done. “With such a forward-thinking industry, innovation is key, and we’ve seen so many exciting new launches here at the show.

Visitors were also able to discover a wide range of products and equipment on show, meet with children’s charities and attend the informative KideQuip seminars. The annual New Product of the Year award was as popular as ever, with more than 100 new products being entered. Following two days of voting via an interactive station, Mangar International’s Back Saver, an innovative new product to help with getting a wheelchair into the boot of a car, was named the winner. Naidex South takes place at ExCel London on September 29 and 30.

Shannon Murray opens the show

Lorna Charlish presents the New Product of the Year award to Mangar representatives

Naidex South launched THE organisers of the Naidex exhibition have launched a new event focusing on the disability, homecare and rehabilitation sectors in London and the South East. Naidex South will take place at the ExCeL in September, and will feature hundreds of products to aid independent living, an extensive 16


programme of free CPD seminars and many of the features from the Birmingham show. Event director Liz Virgo said: “We believe that a large portion of our audience will profit from the industry information that both exhibitions provide.”



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More funding for software scientists SCOTTISH scientists behind the first software of its kind to enable children with communication difficulties to converse better have been awarded more funding to continue their research. A team of experts from the Universities of Aberdeen and Dundee have developed an artificial intelligence technology system which uses sensors and recording devices to track what the child has experienced at school that day. The information is then translated into a story which can be shared when they get home. Additional funding of £285,000 by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) is allowing the scientists to explore how the How was School today? software could be further developed. Dr Ehud Reiter, from the University of Aberdeen's School of Natural and Computing Sciences, said: “The additional funding is allowing us to investigate how we can make the system more usable and accessible to a wider range of children with

different levels and types of communication difficulties. “We will also be looking at how we can make the device accessible for non wheelchair users. “The original prototype of the system involved heavy equipment including a sensor around the size of a phone book – meaning it could only be trialled by wheelchair users. “We are now looking at translating the software into more compact formats – for example whether it could be developed into a mobile phone application – where the phone would act as both the sensor to track the child’s movements, and the means by which they would communicate the information about their day.” Collaborative work is now underway with three Scottish schools where staff and pupils are helping trial the technology. Investigating how the system can be developed to minimise the amount of input required by teaching staff will be another focus.

Increase in efficiency reported THE use of digital pens and paper by people with physiotherapy jobs at Rotherham Community Health Services has resulted in increases in efficiency.



Ubisys system that uses Anoto digital technology.

RNOH chairman Donald Hoodless OBE with the Duke of York

Duke tours new £5million state-of-the-art centre THE Duke of York officially opened the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital's new state-of-the-art Outpatient Assessment Centre.

“It is our absolute priority to provide outstanding patient care and the Outpatient Assessment Centre will have a huge impact on our patients' experience.

He was given a tour of the £5million centre, where he met patients, staff, those involved in the development and construction, key stakeholders and artists.

“The centre is a fantastic facility for patients and represents the clinical excellence undertaken at the RNOH. We were keen to demonstrate this during HRH’s visit.”

Chief Executive Rob Hurd said that it was a pleasure to welcome him to the development.

The Outpatient Assessment Centre spans three floors and boasts modern healthcare facilities within its clinics, imaging (both X-ray and ultrasound), orthotics, occupational therapy, physiotherapy, pre-operative assessment and plaster theatre.

He added: “HRH showed a real interest in the work that is undertaken at the centre and also the plans for rebuilding the Trust's Stanmore site.

New catalogue produced

According to the organisation, productivity gains of 35 per cent have been made.

Physiotherapist Paul Chapman, who is also the clinical lead for information technology, said in his centre, he has to treat patients while also recording a lot of information.

ORTHOPAEDIC specialists Remploy Healthcare and Websters have produced a new catalogue to provide footwear solutions for people with troublesome feet.

NHS Rotherham, which provides services to more than 250,000 people in the local area, deployed an

He said: “The development has helped considerably. It has given me back more time to treat the patient.”

The new brochure, formerly known as Choices, provides customers with condition specific, bespoke

shoes no matter the size or shape of the foot. It also features an extensive range of shoes and socks for those with diabetes, arthritis and other foot-related health conditions including swollen feet and ankles.

Spinal bracing system impresses Steve DURING a trip to the Albrecht company in Germany to look at new knee braces, Steve Chitty, the OT orthotics technical manager for the occupational therapy service at Musgrove Park Hospital in Taunton chanced upon the MKS Thorecta Plus brace.

spinal bracing, from scoliosis correction to trauma, and was using a wide range of bespoke and off the shelf braces.

It was on a mannequin on a workshop bench, but he immediately saw its potential and came back, not with knee braces, but with the new innovative MKS modular spinal bracing system.

MKS, with its innovative modular system, offered us a ‘one stop shop’ opportunity for bracing, while also providing us with a semi-bespoke brace suitable for post operative corrective spinal bracing for the first time.

The OT Orthotics service at Musgrove Park Hospital carries out a range of

For post operative bracing for corrective spinal surgery, we used bespoke braces for which we had to cast the patient in theatre.

In conjunction with Peacocks Medical

Group, UK distributors for Albrecht, we embarked on a six month trial of MKS, making us the first UK hospital to use Thorecta Plus, and have had great results, not only with this brace, but with the whole comprehensive range. We now use MKS as standard, and find its modular system covers most of our bracing needs. It has improved the ‘patient experience’ with its lightweight, cool design, allowing us to work more efficiently in terms of measuring and assembly. ASSISTIVE TECHNOLOGIES I JUNE/JULY 2010





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New version of i-Limb hand unveiled NEWS

TOUCH Bionics has launched a new version of its i-LIMB hand, the world’s first commercially available bionic hand. The i-LIMB Pulse has a host of enhancements, including pulsing grip strength, software-enabled grip patterns and robust aluminium features for improved strength. It is offered in addition to the existing i-LIMB hand, and both products are available to customers depending on the patients’ preferences. CEO Stuart Mead added: “Having experienced over three years in the market with the i-LIMB Hand, we have gathered unparalleled insight into the needs and requirements of

users of upper extremity prosthetic devices. “This has contributed significantly to the development of the i-LIMB Pulse – for example, we know that the majority of users, whether male or female, prefer a device with natural body lines, so we invested considerable time in miniaturising components and internal structures to offer two sizes that will accommodate almost all user preferences.” The i-LIMB Pulse utilises Touch Bionics’ patented pulsing technology to provide increasing and controllable grip strength. When the i-LIMB Pulse closes on an object, the user has the option to

use the pulsing feature to apply significant additional grip force, allowing the device to grasp an object more tightly. These high-frequency electronic pulses are important in everyday activities for users, such as tying shoelaces or doing-up a belt. Key to the i-LIMB Pulse is BioSim, Touch Bionics’ new Bluetoothenabled software that allows prosthetists and, for the first time ever, users (using MyBioSim) to select the features and control strategies that work best for them. For prosthetists, BioSim is a complete software toolset that

allows clinical practitioners to customise the i-LIMB Pulse to the specific needs of the user. It allows real-time assessment of users’ myoelectric impulses with the ability to adjust gain and threshold settings, select different control strategies, and enable or disable features and grips, including the pulsing effect.

Senior lecturer is appointed DOCTOR Clare Taylor has been appointed senior lecturer for the undergraduate course BSc Occupational Therapy at Bournemouth University.

The course, which was introduced to serve the ongoing need for occupational therapists in Dorset and Somerset, is now in its fifth year, with an intake of around 35 students per year.

Have you got news for us? Call our healthcare editor Dominic Musgrave on 01226 734407 or email IFI national sports foundation programme manager Rebecca Morris presents the award with curling Paralympian Aileen Neilson and councillor Gerry Convery, chair of the board of South Lanarkshire Leisure Ltd.

UK first for South Lanarkshire SOUTH Lanarkshire Lifestyles Fairhill is the first leisure facility in Scotland to gain Inclusive Fitness Initiative (IFI) mark accreditation and the first in the UK to achieve the ‘excellent’ level.


The IFI mark accreditation is the nationally recognised standard of inclusion within the fitness industry, awarded to facilities that are inclusive of both disabled and nondisabled people alike.

The £9m facility, which opened in 2008, features generous floor space for users with wheelchairs and walking aids, while South Lanarkshire Leisure has worked with three IFI accredited fitness equipment suppliers to provide inclusive gym equipment which caters for people with a range of disabilities including the visually impaired and wheelchair users as well as non-disabled people.

The process focuses on four areas: Accessible facilities, inclusive fitness equipment, staff training and inclusive marketing strategies, and three grades can be awarded: ‘provisional’, ‘registered’ or

Staff at the facility have also received additional training, providing them with the skills, knowledge and expertise to provide disabled people with a safe and effective programme.

Physio to the stars among speakers A PHYSIOTHERAPIST who has treated Oscar winners and Olympic athletes was among the speakers at a Scottish gathering of medics who work with stars of stage and screen. Kirsten Lord runs three specialist manual therapy physio clinics in Scotland and regularly works with performers. She was one of four speakers to address the British Association of Performing Arts in Medicine (BAPAM), at an event entitled The 18


Show Must Go On in Edinburgh. KIrsten said she was delighted to speak at the event, organised to help doctors, physiotherapists, osteopaths, musicians and others prepare for the 2010 Edinburgh Festival. She added: “Our team has spent many years earning experience treating a wide range of performers ranging from acrobats, musicians, gymnasts and circus performers to dancers and actors.”



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Student Timur visits House to showcase his project By Dominic Musgrave

electronic display reader.

A UNIVERSITY of Reading student has visited the House of Commons to showcase his project that could aid visually-impaired physiotherapists.

He described to research funders and policy makers how the reader uses fibre optics to convey the light from a seven-segment digital display to an electronic circuit, which interprets the data and reads out the values.

Timur Yunusov was selected to present his work, ‘An Accessible Pulse Oximeter for Users with Vision Impairment', as part of the Engineering Subject Session of SET for Britain 2010. He was one of 36 researchers selected for the competition out of 62 applicants. A pulse oximeter is an indispensable piece of equipment for physiotherapists as it provides vital information about a patient's life signs, such as oxygen saturation and heart rate. However, most pulse oximeters have only visual displays, making them inaccessible to people with vision-impairment. The aim of Timur's project, funded by Reading's Undergraduate Research Opportunities Programme (UROP), is to enable a visually-impaired physiotherapist to work independently with a standard portable pulse oximeter through the development of an

The final year Electronic Engineering and Cybernetics student, said: “With valuable support from the research group led by Dr Faustina Hwang, I was able to complete a challenging and worthwhile project. “I was pleased to have been selected to present my work at SET for Britain 2010 in the House of Commons. “It was an extremely valuable experience and a rare chance to meet and compete with the cream of Britain's scientific society of Britain, which I greatly enjoyed.” SET for BRITAIN is a science and engineering competition, and the awards are made on the basis of the best research work and results by an early-stage or early-career researcher. The overall aim is to encourage, support and promote young research scientists, engineers and technologists.

Warranty agreement changes announced by Remploy Healthcare HEALTHCARE solutions provider Remploy Healthcare has announced a new warranty agreement on all of its newly-purchased steel wheelchairs. NHS Trusts and service managers purchasing Remploy Healthcare wheelchairs will have an extended warranty after it was raised from two to three years. This guarantees that products will be supplied without fault, and should components need replacing due to



A university of Salford physiotherapy and sports lecturer has been selected by UK Athletics as a physiotherapist for its endurance squad. Duncan Mason, pictured, will work with the middle and long distance runners, training from 800m up to 10,000m on the track, which includes Commonwealth and world medalists. They are currently training for the European Championships in the summer and the Commonwealth Games in October. They

are based at the French mountain resort of Font-Romeu in the Pyrenees. Duncan said: “This is a fantastic opportunity to work with the country's elite athletes in their preparation for this coming track season.” He has previously been the physiotherapist for the Great Britain team at the World Half Marathon Championships in Birmingham last year and the elite athlete physiotherapist at the Great North Run in 2007.

Ankle-foot prosthesis shortlisted for prestigious engineering award THE world's first self-aligning anklefoot prosthesis which helps amputees walk more naturally has been shortlisted for a prestigious engineering award. manufacturing defects, they will be free of charge under the new policy. Wheelchairs covered by this guarantee include the 9TRL, 8TRL, AP100, SP100, Access and Accent. Remploy Healthcare marketing manager Chris Ford said: “This pioneering agreement is pushing the range of steel wheelchairs forward as the leading choice for NHS trusts and wheelchair service managers who do not want to get caught out by hidden expenses.”

Blatchford’s Echelon hydraulic anklefoot is one of four projects fighting for the Royal Academy of Engineering’s MacRobert Award, worth £50,000. Other projects on the shortlist include a better landmine detector, high-speed satellite broadband and a greener way to make acrylic plastic. Some soldiers fitted with Blatchford’s Echelon prosthetic, which has generated a turnover of more than £2.5million for the company since it

was launched 18 months ago, have been able to return to combat duties. Dr Geoff Robinson, chairman of the judging panel, said: “Yet again, the panel were impressed by the worldbeating quality of UK engineering innovation. “Far from being laid low by recent difficulties in the financial sector, UK engineering companies have demonstrated their ability to develop innovative engineering with tremendous humanitarian, environmental and social benefits – and to do so profitably.” The winner will be announced later in the year. ASSISTIVE TECHNOLOGIES I JUNE/JULY 2010




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Dr Dido is pioneering new device



TGA telesales supervisor Arwen Wlison presents the cheque to the members of Success After Stroke and charity representative Viv Bourne

Mobility specialist in cheque boost for charity MOBILITY scooter specialist TGA presented a cheque for £1,000 to Success After Stroke following its showroom sale and six staff taking part in the Sudbury Fun Run. The Suffolk based charity provides a pro-active self-help support group where dedicated volunteers and therapists help people affected by stroke with their rehabilitation, independence and confidence. The cheque handover took place at the charity’s headquarters in Sudbury, and was presented to Viv Bourne and members by telesales

supervisor Arwen Wilson, who was instrumental in helping to raise the funds. TGA Sales manager Tim Ross said: “We wanted to support a charity where we could see the benefits locally and decided to ask our customers to recommend a worthwhile cause when they visited our showroom. The feedback we received about this highly motivated organisation and how they really make a difference to peoples’ lives that are affected by stroke, compelled us to contact the charity.“

Five minutes with Ollie Smith, clinical specialist prosthetist /orthotist, Ossur

‘Look after your graduates’ When did you become interested in the industry and why? I became interested in the industry when a member of my family became an amputee. Prosthetics appealed to me as the subject contains a variety of subjects such as biology and biomechanics, and I liked the fact the technology is always advancing. How did your career in the industry begin? After getting a degree from Salford University in 2005, my first job was as a prosthetist at Stanmore DSC at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital. How have you ended up where you are today? After working in London for over two years I wanted to move somewhere where I could settle down. I also wanted to turn my hand to a different job which would open up more opportunities for me, such as travel abroad, and throw a variety of challenges at me too. What's the biggest change you've seen in the industry? The biggest change I have seen in the industry is the reduction in 20


funding for the prosthetic service. This makes things harder for prosthetists, who are continually trying to do the best for their patients no matter what the budget is. If you could make one recommendation to take the industry forward what would it be? Look after your graduates. Many graduates leave the profession every year to follow a different path, due to better paid jobs elsewhere, or they become disillusioned with the industry and seek completely different employment. What would you like to see happen to the industry in the future? In the future I would like to see new technology embraced rather than thought of as expensive new fangled gadgetry. Many technological advancements are ignored in this country for many years before it is used.

By Dominic Musgrave

in the therapeutic setting.”

AN occupational therapist at Tel Aviv University is pioneering a new ‘virtual’ method to analyse movement patterns in children, and more effectively treat those with debilitating motor disorders.

Building upon earlier research she conducted at the Evelina Children's Hospital in London, Dido found that virtual reality applications enhance the skill sets learned by her patients.

Dr Dido Green, who works at the university’s Department of Occupational Therapy in the School of Health Professionals, is using the device called the Elements System, which has been developed by researchers at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology. Combining new three-dimensional exercises with two-dimensional graphical movement games already programmed into the tabletop, the system ‘moves’ children with disabilities and provide home-based treatments using virtual reality tools. She said: “I’ve been working with children with movement disorders for the last 20 years. “By the time I meet these children, they're sick of us. They've been ‘over-therapied’, and it’s difficult to get them to practice their exercises and prescribed treatment regimes. “The virtual tabletop appealed to children as young as three and as old as 15. The movement-oriented games allowed them to ‘make music and reach targets in ways that are normally neither comfortable nor fun

Coupled with new technology involving 3D Movement Analysis, a technique she is now integrating into research at Tel Aviv University, she hopes to develop the virtual tabletop–type game into new and effective therapy treatment regimes. Dido added: “Traditional approaches are labour-intensive and their results limited. Our research aims to create a complete system for therapist, parent and child. “It could bring daily treatments into the home and provides therapists with a complete solution to track and analyse improvements or setbacks in the most accurate way to date.” In the near future she hopes to develop the technique for remote rehabilitation, enabling children to practice movements at home with parental supervision. Therapists located elsewhere could ‘log in’ with a webcam and computer to coach the students or monitor their progress. Dido also plans to analyse brain function using trans-cranial magnetic brain stimulation.

Stirling gears up for opening British motor racing legend Sir Stirling Moss will open the Mobility Roadshow in July. There are hundreds of mobility cycles, trikes, wheelchairs including allterrain models and scooters to assess, as well as exercise equipment, helpful products for use at home, specialist holiday, leisure and lifestyle options to explore. In the interactive sports arena there is also the opportunity to try a range of disability sports, dance and fitness, plus the accessible climbing wall and with entertainment for all the family a visit to this event is a great day out for all. The event takes place at the East of England Showground in Peterborough between July 1 and 3.



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New podiatry theatre opens in Norwich THE first of two new podiatry theatres has opened at the Norwich Community Hospital, as a project to refurbish part of the hospital site and install the new facility is completed. Following a deep clean of the theatres, the first has now opened to patients, along with associated preparation and recovery suites and new general consulting and treatment rooms, which have also been installed as part of the £1.5m project. The second theatre will become operational over the next few weeks.

The theatres, which will be managed by Norfolk Community Health and Care (NCH&C), will mean patients requiring operations on their feet or lower leg – such as for bunions, ingrown toenails and arthritis of the toes – will be able to be treated in a modern, clinical facility. Capital funding for the project was provided by Norlife, an organisation consisting of both public and private partners. NHS Norfolk’s assistant director of estates commissioning Graham Copsey said: “At a time of

economic pressure, NHS Norfolk is looking to make public money go as far as possible. “This agreement with Norlife means NHS Norfolk has minimal costs up-front, but can make these podiatry theatres a reality for patients now. “This project is a really good example of a number of organisations coming together to make a scheme successful, so we now have a modern clinical facility which will really benefit patients. The new podiatry theatres will be a wonderful resource for people

needing surgery.” Building and refurbishment work for this project has been underway at the Norwich Community Hospital site since August 2009. Norlife general manager June Gemmell added: “This is the first project of its kind that I have been involved in since taking my role at Norlife and I am delighted with the result.



“After months of hard work, we are now in a position to get patients using this facility, which is very rewarding.”

Fourth Queen’s Award success for prosthetic manufacturer A PROSTHETIC limbs manufacturer who this year celebrates its 120th anniversary has won a Queen’s Award for a fourth time. Chas. A. Blatchford & Sons Ltd, which won an award for innovation in recognition of its commitment to bringing new and superior technology into the design of artificial feet, previously won The Queen’s Award for Technological Achievement in 1976, 1990 and 1996. The company supplies the NHS with artificial limbs to amputees across the country and provides the prosthetics service to injured soldiers for the Ministry of Defence, at the Headley Court Rehabilitation Centre, near Epsom. Soldiers using some of Blatchford’s latest limbs have been able to return to frontline duty. Current owner and CEO Stephen Blatchford said: “In the UK, we supply over 30 per cent of all amputees seen by the NHS, with additional numbers in other countries. “This interaction directs all of our design and manufacturing activities and ensures that we remain focused on the end user of our products. “Our continuous record of prosthetic service also means that those amputees we are fitting who are now in their 20s, we will see through to their 80s. “We have a personal commitment, therefore, to each of these individuals, to ensure that the

artificial limbs we supply now will support healthy and opportunityfilled lives that we can all celebrate as we work together through the years.” Among the company’s recent innovations is the award-winning Echelon Foot, a hydraulic ankle, which mimics the kinematics of the natural foot, meaning that on stairs, ramps and uneven ground the foot stabilises the limb and enhances the comfort of the user. The company has also played a key part in providing artificial limbs to people in Haiti, following the country’s earthquake earlier this year – where an estimated 4,000 people lost limbs. Blatchford’s shipped out 500 artificial legs from its Atlas Limb system, developed by the company for such traumatic disasters. The company employs 450 people and has an turnover of approximately £30m, with sales and manufacturing bases in the United States, Russia, France and India.  i-LIMB hand creator Touch Bionics also won the innovation category at the Queen’s Awards for Enterprise following an intensive application process. The company, which launched the prosthetic hand in 2007, says more than 1,200 patients worldwide have been fitted with the first device where all of the fingers could be controlled independently, and also has an opposable thumb.

Stimulator comes to UK AN implantable drop foot stimulator that compensates for the lack of control of the ankle joint and aids stroke patients suffering from drop foot has been launched in the UK. Otto Bock Healthcare’s wireless ActiGait® system restores a steadier and more natural walking pattern to the wearer, meaning users can focus on their outer environment and return to more normal daily activities. It is implanted beneath the skin of the thigh with the control unit worn on a belt and is easy to use, even for patients with impaired arm functionality. Dr Salim Ghoussayni, business development manager for neurostimulation at Otto Bock, told Assistive Technologies that patient studies carried out in Denmark illustrated an increase in distance patients could walk in a four-minute period and in walking speed over 20 metres.

He added: “Each year approximately 110,000 people in England alone suffer from a stroke, making it the single most common cause of severe disability. Feedback from patient studies in Europe has revealed that ActiGait® enables stroke patients to walk longer distances at an increased speed and with improved confidence. As it is implantable, it offers a more cosmetic and practical userfriendly alternative for individuals who cannot use surface devices.” ActiGait® operates through different components. Stimulation signals and energy impulses from the control unit are sent through the skin via a lightweight antenna, worn on the thigh to the implanted four channel cuff electrode positioned around the common peroneal nerve, which activates the muscles of the front and lower leg and provides a balanced dorsiflexion. ASSISTIVE TECHNOLOGIES I JUNE/JULY 2010




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The TGA ascent team battle with the elements at the summit of Snowdon



Mobility scooter firm team raises £2,000 for charity A TEAM of nine from mobility scooter specialist TGA Electric Leisure Limited tackled extreme weather and sickness to climb the highest peaks in England and Wales for charity. Led by Paul Britton and Geoff Turkentine, who lost his son to Spinal Muscular Atrophy, the condition The Jennifer Trust is

fighting against, the team managed to reach the summit of 3,560 ft high Snowdon and 3,206 ft Scarfell Pike in just over 24 hours. But, due to illness of a team member and a severe weather warning, they were not allowed to complete the final climb of Ben Nevis. Their efforts raised £2,000 for the charity.

New catalogue launched CANONBURY Healthcare has launched a physical therapy catalogue which showcases an extensive range of lower limb health and therapy products. The catalogue features the new Thermoactive range of cold and hot therapy supports – an innovative product that combines cold and hot mobile compression therapy into one support.


In addition, it also includes an extensive range of orthotics, ankle braces, splints, insoles, gel appliances, patient couches and the Dr. Comfort range of orthopaedic footwear. Dr. Comfort footwear is extra depth, orthotic compliant and available in up to four width fittings in a range of patient friendly styles.

Adaptions can cut falls and accidents by up to 60 per cent By Lisa Melinda Barry FIVE years ago stairlifts were installed in elderly people’s homes for an average of just 18 months. That has now become three-and-ahalf years and the many healthcare professionals hope this will rise to five or six years. Why has this change come about? Put simply, stairlifts are being seen increasingly as an important means of helping elderly people live longer, healthier lives by reducing sharply the incidence of often lethal falls at home. This changed perception is long overdue. The NHS already treats some 650,000 elderly people a year for the effects of falls at home, at a cost of billions. One report estimates that nearly a third of all older people fall each year – rising to half for those aged over 85. This cost is not likely to decrease in the foreseeable future. Experts at Newcastle University’s Institute for Ageing and Health forecast that the UK’s ageing population will rise by around 60 per cent over the next 30 years. At present, however, according to the Department of Work and Pensions, one in 10 of all emergency admissions to hospital are caused by falls, with one in 10 of these resulting in serious injury. Even worse, statistics from Help the Aged suggest that one elderly person actually dies every five hours in the UK as a result of falls. These are shameful statistics when the means of avoiding such a huge number of incidents are easily within society’s reach. Fortunately, there are discernible ways forward. It is widely accepted

that adapted homes for elderly people, with, for example, stair lifts, hoists and grab rails, cut accidents, by as much as 60 per cent. So there is clearly a compelling case for doing everything necessary to make our senior citizens fully aware of all the local authority grants, equipment and services which, for now, continue to be available. With looming cuts, families could be encouraged to make appropriate adaptations themselves. Longer term, construction of increasing numbers of lifetime homes – designed to fulfil the occupiers’ changing requirements as their physical and family circumstances alter – is already a stated aim of government policy. They will prevent injury and contribute to enhanced quality of life. The costs – an additional £547 on a typical family house, according to Government estimates – are trivial compared to the total price. Nevertheless, the proportion of our housing stock which will be capable of ready adaptation will be minuscule and, longer-term, we need to see in addition a major initiative from the private health insurance sector to tackle the costs of installing special equipment in homes. When investing to save by the private sector can produce huge benefits for the individuals involved and reductions in the burden on the NHS, it remains a mystery why this issue is not a top priority on society’s healthcare agenda.  Lisa Melinda Barry is owner and managing director of Stairlifts Scotland Ltd and SSL Access.



THE Heelpro Heel Protection Boot is designed to reduce pressure, friction and shear force on the heels, separate and protect the ankles, maintain heel suspension and prevent foot drop and malposition. The boot incorporates generous low friction cushioning for effective protection, and features a heel aperture for offloading and skin inspection. Secure strapping options allow for optimal positioning and avoidance of foot drop. The Heelpro Heel Protection Boot is supplied in a universal size and priced at £30 per unit or £250 for a box of 10 units. Enquiries: Visit

THE OActive is a lightweight, low profile, single upright osteoarthritis knee brace with a unique angle adjustment to offload either the medial or lateral compartment and optimise pain relief. Its laterally applied frame avoids contralateral limb contact during gait and is perfect for bilateral brace users. Other features include quick release buckles for easy fitting and removal, silicone grip liners and strap pads to maintain suspension on the leg. The OActive is immediately available as a universally sized brace in two lengths and left and right models, two sizes will fit 90 per cent of your OA patients straight from the shelf, reducing the need to hold stock. The OActive can also be made as a custom brace to order. For more information please contact us on 0121 475 1101, or email





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Assistive Technologies (June/July 2010)  

Innovation for independance