YOUR HEALTH: Implants with an added dose of protection

ORLANDO, Florida – Michael Carroll has spent the past ten years custom designing replacement limbs for amputees.
His work gives patients mobility, but sometimes a prosthesis comes with risk.

"The very nature of a prosthetic socket, warm environment with good amount of moisture and darkness makes it more likely they'll have an infection," he said.

Every year in the United States, 185,000 people need an amputation. more than 300,000 have hip replacements, and 700,000 have knee replacements.

Carroll's concern about infection is just one medical complication that scientist Melanie Coathup and her colleagues are trying to eliminate.

Coathup is an internationally-known orthopedic expert, now at the University of Central Florida, working to make traditional replacement parts 'smarter' and last longer.

"When you put an implant in they last very well, but can we make that even better," said Coathrup.

Coathup and her team are taking commercially available titanium implants and coating them with hydroxyapatite, a hard-mineral substance much like human bone or teeth.

"We can spray these onto the implant surfaces with certain designs of hip replacements and knee replacements and they will encourage bone to attach," Coathup explained.

NEW TECHNOLOGY:   Current prosthetic devices can be prone to degeneration over time.  The can also be a source of infection.   That's why the materials they're made from, and the substances they're coated with, are vital.   Vital, too, are the development of smart sensors which could provide early warning systems for prosthetic device failure.   Researchers at University of Central Florida anticipate interest in their research from hospital systems, government entities like the U.S. Army, Department of Defense and DARPA, and private entities, with the potential for commercialization of any technology developed.   (Source: https://today.ucf.edu/ucf-ready-propel-smart-prosthetic-implants-innovation/)

Down the road, Coathup and her team also want to know if coating the implants with drugs could help prevent infection.

Someday it could give Michael Carroll's handiwork another benefit for patients.

If this story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Jim Mertens at jim.mertens@wqad.com or Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at mthomas@ivanhoe.com.