The L&D hospital is home to many services and professions often overlooked by the headlines. Today we focus on the work of our Limb Fitting centre and speak to Dr Boppana, one of the leading consultants there.
“Our centre hosts both prosthetics and orthotics services, that is to say we both replace lost limbs and improve the quality of life of people with injuries or lifelong physical conditions using braces, supports and other devices.
We are one of 35 Prosthetic centres in the UK providing these services, and we specialise in lower limbs. Our ‘sister’ centre, which covers upper limbs, is at Stanmore Orthopaedic Hospital and Dr Boppana spends some of his week there. Our 30-strong, multidisciplinary team includes technicians, engineers, physiotherapists, psychologists and specialist consultants.
We get involved in the entire journey of a patient requiring a prosthetic limb. We first meet the patient before surgery is considered, to discuss recovery options and what we can do to restore mobility. Not everyone decides to have a prosthetic limb fitted, and not everyone benefits from one, so these consultations are very important.
At this stage, we also work closely with the surgical teams to determine the best procedure for maximum recovery.
After patients have recovered, we arrange a pre-prosthetic assessment where they meet with the whole team. It is important for both us and them to see the full picture to decide what the best way forward is. Everything is tailored around the patient, their needs and circumstances. Think of it as any other prescription, where every bit of medical history needs to be taken into account to offer the best medication. We do the same, and the result is the most appropriate limb replacement for any individual patient.
For children, for example, we are able to offer sport legs, or “blades” on the NHS, and we can now also include the latest “microprocessor” knees (MPK) in our limbs for patients eligible under the MPK policy. These are knee-joints that bend automatically during walking and adjust to the patient’s gait almost in real time.
From that first meeting, we stay with our patients for life. We follow them for as long as they want us to do so; they are never discharged and can come back any time for any issue, further fittings, replacements and general maintenance. This is particularly true for the children in our care. Their prostheses need to grow with them.
At the moment, we have 500 active patients who we have seen regularly in the last year or so, including veterans and children. We also have Britain’s Strongest Disabled Man, Mark Smith, among our patients. Some of our staff are also our patients, and ended up joining the team.
We have a vision for our centre – we would like to be able to get more patients to take up sports and all sorts of recreational activities to build up confidence and gain independence, and we would love to be able to provide the training and the opportunities for this to happen.”