A 63-year old Londoner has become the first person in the UK to receive an innovative computer-controlled leg brace, enabling him to walk unaided for the first time in decades.
The C-Brace bionic exoskeleton is designed to help people with limited control over their lower limbs. The carbon fibre structure, built by prosthetics expert Ottobock, contains a built-in microprocessor controlling the artificial knee which guides the legs to perform various movements needed for walking while offering additional support.
Hailing the device as ‘revolutionary’, the patient John Simpson said he believed the leg brace was ‘going to change his life.’
"For as long as I can remember, I've had to walk with a locked-knee, which is awkward, cumbersome and puts great strain on my lower back,” he said.
"In all the years I've been wearing calipers, the most innovative development until now was the addition of Velcro, so the C-Brace is a revolution. I can walk naturally again, without fear that my leg will give way, leading to a fall.”
Simpson’s ability to walk was affected by a polio infection he suffered as a child, which left his nerves severely damaged. Despite multiple operations and extensive physiotherapy, he never regained full control over his knee and has been wearing a leg brace since the age of 14.
“With the C-Brace I've gone from crutches to two sticks and now only one stick, and I'm still at the early stages of learning," he said.
“I can walk downstairs with a bent knee and without fear as the brace provides support intuitively.”
Ottobock Academy clinician and stance control expert David Buchanan said: “This is the most exciting development in the orthotic industry in the last decade.
"It's the first 'swing-phase' control orthosis, which means that the computer and sensors inside the device control the leg in space – just like the advanced prosthetic legs.
"This means that it can help people walk, cycle... even play a round of golf, naturally and comfortably."