imperial cambodia trip

Cambodia fact-finding visit a success

A Find A Better Way funded team from Imperial College London returned from Cambodia last week following a very successful three-week prosthetics fact-finding tour.

The ‘Pathway to Provide Affordable Prosthetics’ project is researching new prosthetic designs that will better accommodate the rising numbers of landmine survivors with through-knee amputations. Through-knee amputations offer survivors a better quality of life than more traditional above-knee amputations, but compatible prosthetic devices are largely unavailable in countries most affected by landmines.

The team was comprised of Dr Ian Radcliffe, Grigorios Grigoriadis, and Christopher Natt from Imperial College London’s Department of Bioengineering and Dyson School of Design Engineering and are working in conjunction with the Royal British Legion Centre for Blast Injury Studies.

“Our main goal was to get as much time talking to prosthesis users, and the technicians and designers who make prosthetics for the local population,’ Ian Radcliffe explained. ‘We were really lucky to have the support of the Cambodian School of Prosthetics and Orthotics, which is a world leader in the field of affordable prosthetics.

‘Through-knee amputations are becoming more common,’ he continued, ‘but the only low-cost option for fitting a through-kneeprosthesis currently is to adapt a prosthesis designed for an above amputation. The technicians in Cambodia are extremely skilled at doing this, but even in a best case scenario is the prosthesis will lose some functionality. It’s very common for the adapted prosthesis to not be able to lock in a standing position, which is far from ideal.’

The team also learned a lot by spending extended time with prosthetic wearers or ‘end users.’

Christopher Natt explained: ‘Through-knee amputations provide a higher-quality of life to landmine survivors, but they often lead to prosthesis that looks less natural, especially when users are in a sitting position. There is still a lot of social stigma connected to wearing a prosthesis in Cambodia, so we will be working hard to make sure our design looks and works as much like a natural leg as possible. It’s very important to us that our designs meet the real needs of the end-user.’

The team brought several of their prototype designs to Cambodia and were very pleased with the feedback they received.

Grigorios Grigoriadis was very enthusiastic about the trip. ‘It was absolutely essential to helping us refine our design ideas, and we came away with exactly the knowledge we needed to move the project forward. It would be fantastic if in a few years some of the people we met were able to benefit from the improved designs we create from what we’ve learned.’