Bionic knee uses Bluetooth technology - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Bionic knee uses Bluetooth technology

ALBANY, NY (WNYT/NBC) - The Veterans Administration has been working with a New York company to come up with better prosthetic devices.

Replicating the motion and mechanics of a prosthetic leg is a particularly difficult challenge. A new bionic knee that uses a small computer to control it have been in the works, and could dramatically improve the quality of life for those who use it.

Thanks to the Genium Bionic Knee, Mike Tallman's quality of life is better with his prosthetic leg.

Tallman has worn an array of prosthetics, having lost his right leg in a motorcycle accident 25 years ago while he was in the Army. But nothing, he says, has been as responsive or stable as this microprocessor. He can walk over obstacles even walk up the steps without having to drag his leg.

"It will sense my foot like I used to," Tallman said.

Tallman is one of six people worldwide who tested the Genium Bionic Knee before it hit the market in June.

Bill Sampson is a technician at Sampson Prosthetics in Albany, NY. Sampson makes the socket that fits onto the leg. The Genium Knee, which is made by a German company, affixes to the socket.

Sampson says he can tweak the action of the knee in real time as the computer talks to the unit via Bluetooth technology. There's also a sensor in the ankle, adding to the information.

"The unit itself automatically adjusts to changes in terrain and weight. So if Mike carries something, the Genium will accommodate that. All these real time adjustments make the Genium knee more stable than earlier computer driven prosthetics," Sampson said. "Say, for instance, the knee just shuts down. It will actually send a signal to Mike through a vibration or just a sound and it will say it's going to go to sleep in a safe mode."

The Genium needs to be recharged every five days. It has a seven-year life expectancy.

At $60,000 to $80,000, it's pricey and it's not clear if insurance will pay. But Sampson says the VA will. Three of the 12 people on Sampson's waiting list for the Genium are veterans.

"I'm just looking forward to putting miles on this thing (and seeing) how much better my life can get. Really," Tallman said.

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