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C-Leg Microprocessor Prosthetic Knee Celebrates 20-year Anniversary in Canada

AUSTIN, Texas (March 20, 2017) – In 1997, Ottobock HealthCare, a Germany-based prosthetic, orthotic and mobility solutions company with Canadian headquarters in Burlington, Ontario set a new standard for prosthetic technology with the introduction of the C-Leg: the world’s first fully microprocessor-controlled prosthetic knee joint.

The C-Leg prosthetic knee is the brainchild of Canadian engineer Dr. Kelly James, PhD from the University of Alberta, who was fascinated by the potential of new technology to restore prosthetic movement and function for individuals with limb loss. He wanted to create a prosthetic knee joint that would react more like a human knee and allow for an individual with a lower-limb amputation to walk more naturally.

On the surface, walking is an automatic function that requires little to no concentration. Behind the scenes, however, complex processes are taking place. In order to more closely replicate those processes, Dr. James knew he would need to take a different approach. “I thought long and hard about how I would do it and decided that a computer would do it better than the mechanical systems that were out there,” he said.

With the C-Leg, various sensors in the knee send information to a microprocessor. Based on this information, the microprocessor adjusts the behavior of hydraulics in the knee in real time to suit the walking situation. The C-Leg is programmed to allow users to do things like adapt their walking pattern and walking speed, sit in a chair, and walk down stairs.

With each iteration, Ottobock has improved the C-Leg’s functionality and design to ensure that it remains the best technology available. Today’s C-Leg 4 offers all of the benefits of previous versions with a focus on making it even more stable, and easier to use. Advanced activity modes also allow amputees to participate in activities like cycling, dancing, and golf. The C-Leg 4 is even weatherproof and has a unique smartphone app to give users a simple way to switch modes and check battery life.

“Globally the C-Leg is a very important knee for amputees,” stated Mark Agro, President and CEO of Ottobock HealthCare Canada, located in Burlington Ontario. “Knees that were available prior to the C-Leg were mostly mechanical knees. Some were pneumatic, some of them were hydraulic. But they were not fully controlled by a microprocessor. They relied upon the amputee to think and actively stabilize the prosthesis. Microprocessors have revolutionized amputee gait. They commonly report they don’t have to think about walking or if there’s a crowd of people around them, because the knee gives them the stability they need at all phases of the gait. This translates into added safety and security.”

With more than 60,000 fittings worldwide, Ottobock’s C-Leg is worn by more people than any other microprocessor prosthetic knee. Many C-Leg users have said that with the C-Leg, they no longer have to think about every step that they take or keep their eyes on the floor to stop from stumbling. More than 40 scientific studies have proven these benefits, showing the safety and effectiveness of the C-Leg prosthetic knee that has allowed people around the world to get back to living the lives they want to live.

To learn more about the 20th anniversary of C-Leg please visit the Ottobock YouTube channel: