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Alta. clinic one of two in Canada offering 'revolutionary' prosthesis technique to lower-limb amputees

A new kind of prosthesis that gives amputees the chance to once again feel the ground they're walking on is available in western Canada.

A team at the University of Alberta's BLINC Lab in Edmonton – which specializes in developing bionic limbs – is one of two in Canada researching osseointegration.

The technique sees a surgeon insert a titanium rod into a patient's remaining bone. The bone fuses to the rod and the flesh heals around it, except for a small length at one end which remains visible outside the body. The prosthesis can be clicked on and off that end of the rod.

"Yeah, they shove a rod in your leg, but it's great," laughed amputee Stephanie Gansekoele.

The University of Alberta's BLINC Lab in Edmonton is one of two spots in Canada studying osseointegration, a technique where a titanium rod is inserted into an amputee's bone, allowing for a better integrated prosthetic limb. (Credit: Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital)

In 2010, her vehicle was struck by a semi that was hauling agriculture equipment and sent flying 200 metres.

It took nearly 2.5 hours for emergency crews to rescue her from the vehicle, time for which blood had been poorly circulating to her limbs. In addition to severe internal and brain trauma, Gansekoele lost most of her left leg, her right lower leg, and several fingers.

For the better part of a decade, she used a traditional prosthetic socket on her left leg like she did on her right. But while the right side was a little uncomfortable, the left was hardly bearable.

"I couldn't walk in it, I couldn't bend the knee right, it would get loose," the Barrhead, Alta., resident recalled.

She dreaded wearing it.

Then, in 2019, the Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital approached her as a potential candidate for BLINC Lab's osseointegration project.

"This sucker's had so many leg surgeries, just go for it. If it doesn't work, oh well. If it works, cool," she remembers thinking.

Gansekoele was the exact type of patient BLINC Lab looks for.

"There's this segment of people who just no matter how hard they try and no matter how hard the clinicians try and help them, just can't get them comfortable. And they can't walk and they can't get back to work, and they can't get back to doing their activities," explained U of A professor and BLINC director Jacqueline Hebert.

With rehabilitation and a lot of work, many of BLINC's patients have been able to walk again with ease and comfort.

"It essentially fuses this titanium extension of the prosthesis right into your skeleton," Hebert said. "So you have full control of that prosthesis. And when people walk with osseointegration, they can actually kind of feel the vibrations of the ground when they stand on it."

"It's actually quite revolutionary."

"It's the best friggin' thing. It's easy. It doesn't hurt. You just put your leg on with a little allen key, or allen wrench, or whatever, and you're essentially on your way," Gansekoele told CTV News Edmonton.

Stephanie Gansekoele lost most of her left leg in a crash in 2010. In 2019, she was selected to be part of the Alberta Limb Osseointegration Program.

"Now, I don't even think about it."

Montreal is the only other place in Canada doing the same kind of work, as the technique is fairly new to North America. BLINC's team went to Australia to train in the practice, before bringing it to western Canada.

In Edmonton, the University Hospital Foundation is funding a two-year study on osseointegration, including functional and clinical outcomes for patients and complications. As well, the Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital Foundation is conducting a qualitative study on how patients adapt.

The Alberta Limb Osseointegration Program hopes to one day expand to upper body amputations, but for now is strictly looking for above-the-knee leg amputees.

Anyone who would like to connect to discuss their candidacy is asked to contact the Glenrose hospital at 780-735-8221 or by email: or

With files from CTV News Edmonton's Carlyle Fiset Top Stories

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