New prosthetic leg is first with "feeling"

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Tuesday, June 9, 2015

VIENNA, Austria (WPVI) -- An Austrian professor has unveiled the first-ever prosthetic leg that can feel.

The leg has electronic sensors wired into the sole, to measure contact with the ground.

Hubert Egger, Professor at the department of medical engineering at the University of Linz, says, "Then they forward the rolling movement of the foot to the brain and there a perception occurs how the foot feels on the body."

The signals are sent to the brain through nerve endings on the patient's leg stump.

Egger calls it "targeted sensory reinnervation."

54-year-old Wolfgang Rangger, the first person to wear the prosthetic, says wearing it for the past 6 months had felt like he has a foot again.

"I can feel whether it's asphalt or grass, if it's a lawn," says Rangger.

He says it gives him steady footing, even on icy winter days, which is something he didn't get with his old prosthesis.

"When it was slippery I simply fell down. Back then I preferred the wheelchair so that wouldn't happen," says Rangger.

The leg is designed to only take minutes to remove for the night.

Rangger had his right leg amputated in 2007, after a blood clot developed in it following a stroke.

He retired from teaching then, but now says he feels ready to take on his old job again.

Another benefit of the new prosthesis is that it almost completely takes away the phantom pain from Rangger's lost leg.

After resorting to heavy painkillers for years, Rangger is now completely pain-free.

The team around Professor Egger hopes the price for the new prosthesis will come down as production and demand go up.

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