Amputees benefit from 'bionic' body parts

High-tech prosthetic improves function

KENDALL, Fla. - No longer just the subject of a TV show storyline, bionic technology and high-tech prosthetics are helping some amputees live better lives.

"By the time I saw the headlights, it was over with," said Chad Cauley, recalling the night in March 2012 when a car sideswiped his motorcycle.

"I remember sparks flying up from my wedding band when I put my hand down to hold myself up," he said.

His hand suffered only minor injuries, but his right food was badly damaged.

After weeks of trying to save the limb, an infection set in.

Cauley told doctors it was time to amputate.

"The left calf was so mangled up they would have done several surgeries and months of skin grafts just to try to save it and I was like 'Oh, that's not me,'" Cauley said.

Instead, he opted for a bionic knee, one of only 150 in the country.

"I just couldn't believe they had anything out there like this," Cauley said.

The limb, which includes the lower leg from the knee down, is controlled by microprocessors, gyrometers and accelerometers.

"As I'm taking a step, the computer reads what this leg is doing 100 times every three quarters of a second," said Cauley.

"This is definitely a leap forward," said Christopher Jagessar, a physical therapist with Orthopedic Rehabilitation Specialists in Kendall, Fla.

Jagessar said the bionic limb allows for range of motion and movement not seen with a standard prostheses.

"He will be able to navigate uneven terrain, climb stairs one foot after another, go up and down ramps with a normal stride, even walk backwards," Jagessar said.

The bionic knee costs about $90,000 and in Cauley's case, was covered by workman's compensation insurance.

With proper maintenance, the prostheses can last for years.

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