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Volume 42 Number 6, November/December 2005
Pages 795 — 808

Abstract - Efficacy of shock-absorbing versus rigid pylons for impact reduction in transtibial amputees based on laboratory, field, and outcome metrics

Jocelyn S. Berge, MSE;1 Joseph M. Czerniecki, MD;1-2 Glenn K. Klute, PhD*1,3-4

1Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), Rehabilitation Research and Development Center of Excellence for Limb Loss Prevention and Prosthetic Engineering, VA Puget Sound Health Care System, Seattle, WA; 2Department of Rehabilitation Medicine, 3Department of Mechanical Engineering, and 4Department of Electrical Engineering, University of Washington, Seattle, WA
Abstract — Prosthetic manufacturers have marketed shock-absorbing pylons (SAPs) for attenuation of injurious loads from foot-ground contact. In this study, we compared a commonly prescribed SAP with a conventional rigid pylon, using a within-subject design (n = 15 unilateral transtibial amputees), to assess effect on gait mechanics, measure transmitted accelerations in situ, and determine functional outcomes using step counts and questionnaires. No differences were found across pylons for self-selected walking speed, prosthetic-side step length, prosthetic-side loading rate and decelerative peak of the vertical ground reaction force, peak pylon acceleration, step count per week, or questionnaire results that examined pylon performance and subjects' pain and fatigue levels. The only statistically significant finding was for the prosthetic-side knee angle at initial contact, where subjects displayed an average of 2.6 degrees more flexion with the rigid pylon than the SAP while walking at a controlled speed (p = 0.004); this result indicates that transtibial amputees are able to modulate the effective stiffness of their residual limb in response to changes in prosthetic component stiffness. The results from the laboratory, field, and subjective outcome measurements suggest that the SAP in this study is as effective as a rigid pylon for unilateral transtibial amputees.
Key words: amputation, artificial limbs, biomechanics, gait impact force, gait mechanics, prosthetics, rehabilitation, residual-limb pain, rigid pylon, shock-absorbing pylon.

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