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Walter Sisulu University students’ groundbreaking inventions to save amputees millions

Nov 25, 2019
Walter Sisulu University students’ groundbreaking inventions to save amputees millions

Mthatha - Walter Sisulu University Medical Orthotics and Prosthetic students, Zanodumo Godlimpi and Siphosethu Mgwili’s ground-breaking prosthetic leg inventions may give financial and physical relief to the over three million below-knee amputation casualties occurring annually.

A prosthesis is an artificial device that replaces a missing body part, which may be lost through trauma, disease, or congenital conditions.

Siphosethu Mgwili’s innovation will allow amputees the ability to adjust their own height in their homes to their comfortable and functional height.

While Zanodumo Godlimpi developed a pneumatic actuated below knee prostheses that utilizes pressurized air and pneumatic cylinder that can plantar-flex and dorsi-flex to achieve a range of motion of 360 degrees.

This means the artificial leg utilizes compressed air to perform basic ankle motions which are heel up and heel down. The invention was inspired by two things:

  1. How a paint ball can be projected from a paint ball gun using pressurized air and
  2. How calve muscles contract to bring about motion.

“I wanted to use the paint ball gun trigger mechanism to command the foot to perform certain movements. This prosthetic foot uses certain characteristics of the normal walking pattern as mechanical signals which are then used to instruct the ankle joint to move,” said Zanodumo.

These final-year students’ innovations are expected to save child and adolescent amputees thousands of rands in upgrades as they go through physical changes over time.

In light of not only the alarming numbers of amputees, but also socio-economic conditions in developing countries like South Africa, a heart-0wrenched Siphosethu Mgwili took it upon herself to find a solution that will ease the prosthetic leg experience for causalities in developing countries and rural communities.

“Due to financial constraints and lack of insurance, less than 10% of these amputees in developing regions have access to a prosthetic limb. Even simple devices without dynamic features are expensive, resulting in amputees settling for an ill-fitting device, or going without one at all. This causes serious health and mobility concerns for the amputees since there is a 50%, five-year mortality rate for amputees who remain sedentary,” said Mgwili.

According to Mgwili a few adjustable pylons have been developed, however none fit the goal to be achieved by her research invention as most are very expensive and heavy. For the more affordable ones, mechanism is not easily adjustable.

“Prosthesis are expensive, and therefore that leading to scarcity of prosthesis in most developing and underdeveloped countries. The main interest and purpose behind this study is to help prosthetic users and suppliers by decreasing the cost of the prosthesis, making them more functional, affordable and available to people; and to decrease the number of prosthesis one has to use, especially for those amputated at childhood,” she said.

The duo recently received the WSU Vice-Chancellor’s Recognition Award for their significant contributions to the university.

The research for these inventions are conducted in the Department of Rehabilitation Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, Walter Sisulu University, Eastern Cape, South Africa.

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