New tools in prosthetics help active patients - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

New tools in prosthetics help active patients

(Source: WAFF) (Source: WAFF)

Wayne Wood, 72,  demonstrates the prosthesis he wears on his leg and how to put everything on.

He said his leg was amputated 3 years ago due to several health problems, including diabetes, an injured toe and more.  

"I do about whatever I feel like doing," he said. "I can not run, but other than that, I go fishing, I do sporting clays. I ride a bicycle."

Obviously, he hasn't allowed that amputation to slow him down. He says he is always busy, and his prosthetic leg helps him keep that active lifestyle.

The prosthesis they make today is different from those of years past. And even the particular materials will differ depending upon the needs of the patient.

Some of those artificial limbs are made on-site at Crosswalk in Priceville. Owner Bradley Hilliker says everything is very high-tech now. With a background in physical therapy, he has seen a few changes along the way.

"The method of casting the patient, or getting the image, are different," said Hilliker. "You can use computerized systems like what we have there that we're implementing at Crosswalk that speeds the process up and gives us the ability to duplicate it over and over again exactly as it is. There is also the advent of 3-D printing in the past few years. And all those are huge advances past the old days of casting with fiberglass or plaster casts."

Step one involves scanning multiple images of the limb. Hilliker says the image is very precise.

"We've gone through two steps of the three steps we need to make a leg. The first step is the scanning. The second one is actually modifying the CAD (computer-aided design) program that we have. The third step is actually putting it into the carver," said Hilliker.

The mill cuts and carves to the computer specifications. If there is a problem with the fit, later, Hilliker can make adjustments in the computer, rather than building it up with plaster.

"When I saw the need for the patients that were homebound and needed house calls... that's how we built our small business," said Hilliker.

Hilliker's work leaves patients, like Wood, with hope.

"I feel like if I want to do something I'll do it. I may not be as fast as I used to be, but I'll still try it," Wood said.

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