Low-cost, high-quality lower-leg prosthetic device being developed for Filipino amputees

A lower-leg prosthetic device made of natural fibers is being developed to help Filipino amputees in their rehabilitation and recovery.  Supported by the Department of Science and Technology – Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (DOST-PCHRD) and the DOST Technology Application and Promotion Institute (DOST-TAPI) TECHNICOM Program, the technology pioneered by Engr. Eduardo Magdaluyo Jr. from the University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman, is set to be a low-cost and high-quality version of a prosthesis compared to commercially available devices for the same purpose.

A local study conducted by the University of the East-Ramon Magsaysay Memorial Medical Center College of Allied Rehabilitation Sciences (UERMMMC-CAReS) revealed that around 80 percent of Filipino amputees do not have prosthesis because the ones available in the market are expensive.

Gold standard materials used in the production of prosthesis such as carbon fiber and titanium alloy are hard to come by and are often sourced, hence the hefty price tags on currently available prosthesis. While there are other cheap alternatives made of light-weight and weak metals, they offer very short service life making it impractical in the long run.

Turning this problem into an opportunity, Engr. Magdaluyo and his team of researchers from the UP Diliman Department of Mining, Metallurgical and Materials Engineering (UPD-DMMME) has successfully fabricated a lower leg prosthetic device that utilizes natural fibers in its composites. The structural strength simulation studies conducted on the device shows that the maximum tensile strength of their fabricated socket is comparable with that of a carbon fiber reinforced composite, and the maximum yield strength of their fabricated pylon ranks second to titanium alloy.

These results indicate that the incorporation of natural fibers into the prosthetic legs makes it more affordable and more light-weight but are as durable as other high-end prosthetic legs in the market. The proponents are also expecting that more Filipino amputees can avail this prosthetic device through PhilHealth’s expanded Z Benefit Rate for Mobility, Orthosis, Rehabilitation, Prosthesis Help (ZMORPH) package.

To date, the project team was able to develop five prototypes that will still undergo further laboratory testing to ensure that the device will be truly safe and reliable once it becomes available in the market.