Quebec has become the first province in Canada to cover under medicare a new surgical procedure for people with lower-limb amputations — giving them a range of motion they could never enjoy with the conventional prosthetic leg.
At present, an amputee must use a bulky prosthetic leg that rises to the hip and that has a restricted range of motion. Just putting on and taking off the artificial limb is a time-consuming process.
But under the new procedure, called osteointegration, it can take as little as 10 seconds to fix the prosthetic leg to a titanium rod in the stump. The amputee can cross his or her legs with the artificial leg while sitting, something that would be impossible with the traditional prosthesis.
Under the three-year program, Quebec will cover cost of 50 osteointegrations a year. At the same time, all the amputees will be enrolled in a study to monitor their progress.
The McGill University Health Centre and the Institut de réadaptation Gingras-Lindsay-de-Montreal have been chosen as the sites to carry out the surgery and post-operative rehabilitation for patients.
Michèle Forget, who lost her left leg in a motorcycle accident, underwent surgery at the MUHC on Sept. 26 to insert the titanium rod into her stump.
“I came out of the operating room very excited, because I knew that my life had profoundly changed,” Forget said. “I am now less limited in my movements. I move more easily. I can wear the prosthesis for several hours without discomfort.”
Dr. Robert Turcotte, who operated on Forget, suggested that osteointegration is ideal for amputees who have recurring problems with their existing artificial legs.
“It’s a source of great pride,” Turcotte said. “The MUHC is the only centre in North America that performs these surgeries as part of a public program where the costs are covered under medicare.”
This story will be updated.