Walking devices made in Oklahoma City to improve prosthetics' performance

Walking Devices to Improve Prosthetics' Performance

Published: Thursday, July 9, 2009 7:00 am By: Debbie Blossom

The Oklahoman

Days after moving into new offices in the Presbyterian Health Foundation Research Park, officials with OrthoCare Innovations introduced two devices designed to help amputees walk better. What's more, they will be manufactured in Oklahoma City.

Although most of the company's new 14,000-square-foot headquarters and production facility is still empty and the paint isn't yet dry, Chief Technology Officer David Boone and Chief Executive Officer Doug McCormack on Wednesday were ready to demonstrate Compass, their advanced prosthetic technology system.

The devices work together to improve the fit and function of prosthetic limbs.

"These are the first products to be produced here for worldwide distribution," Boone said. Production of the complex electronic devices will begin next month.

Along with a software program, the "compass" and "smart pyramid" components mean a much-improved quality of life for people with limb loss, Boone said. The two interlock and work together to monitor walking gait and maintain correct body alignment.

How it works
The new system "gives intelligent feedback on how well a prosthetic is helping someone walk, and guides a prosthetic to provide the best motion," Boone said.

He illustrated the ease and benefits of the system on Michael Varro, a Veterans Administration resident and amputee, who had the device fitted on his prosthetic leg. Varro's walking pattern was recorded on a computer screen, and Boone showed how seamlessly modifications can be made.

Regular alterations are needed to keep amputees from suffering from back pain and other common injuries that occur from wearing a prosthetic, he said.

80 jobs planned
Retired Army Maj. Ed Pulido, who lost a leg in Iraq in 2004, was at the demonstration and said the technology will be especially helpful to veterans injured in the Middle East and who want to return to as normal a life as possible.

"We want to walk as best as we can, we want to walk with a good gait," he said.

McCormick said OrthoCare relocated its manufacturing facility from Seattle with assistance from a $1.6 million grant from the state Economic Development Generating Excellence endowment.

The facility is also supported by the Presbyterian Health Foundation and the Oklahoma City Urban Renewal Authority.

OrthoCare is now the country's largest prosthetic research and development company, and McCormick said he expects to add 80 jobs during the next five years to the current staff of 25.

The positions will include engineers, scientists, management, marketing and accounting, with an average salary of about $50,000.

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