High-technology prosthetics components manufactured in the Dayton region could be used to help the at least 14 people who lost limbs in last week’s Boston Marathon bombings regain their mobility, local officials said.
The Dayton region has the nation’s highest concentration of prosthetics and orthotics professionals, as well as Ohio’s largest number of prosthetic manufacturers, according to state and national data obtained by the Dayton Daily News.
Endolite, the world’s third largest prosthetics and orthotics company, has its North American headquarters in Miamisburg. The U.K.-based company, which produces microprocessor-powered prosthetic limbs, is making its products available to the Boston Marathon amputee victims, said Rachael Strange, an Endolite spokeswoman.
“Especially for runners, with everything we have that could really help them, I’m sure we’ll get some feedback from that,” Strange said. Endolite has 48 employees and manufactures up to 1,200 feet and 150 to 200 knee prosthetics a month at its Miamisburg facility.
The American Orthotic and Prosthetic Association (AOPA) on Tuesday announced it is leading a coalition of AOPA members to provide care access for uninsured and under-insured amputee victims of the Boston Marathon bombings. The prosthetic and orthotic care and components will be provided at no cost to those patients, officials said.
A number of Ohio prosthetics manufacturers, including Endolite and Willow Wood of Mt. Sterling, near Columbus, “will be involved indirectly, if not directly, with some of the cases coming out of that tragedy,” said Dianne Farabi, executive director of the Ohio Orthotics and Prosthetics Association (OOPA). Ohio has about 400 licensed prosthetics and orthotics practitioners.
Prosthetics and orthotics is a small but important segment of the health care industry, Farabi said. A prosthesis, or prosthetic limb, is a medical device that replaces a missing body part. An orthosis is a brace or other specialized mechanical device that supports a weakened or abnormal joint or limb.
“A lost limb is never replaced, but the prosthetists who make this their life’s work are dedicated to returning that person to the best situation that they can with an artificial limb,” Farabi said.
The Dayton metropolitan area has the nation’s highest concentration of orthotist and prosthetist jobs and location quotients, a measure used to compare the industrial activity levels among different areas of the country, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The region is home to at least 11 companies involved in some aspect of the prosthetics industry, from manufacturing prosthetic components to fitting amputees, according to OOPA. Locally, the industry employs nearly 150 people, including support staff.
Nationally, orthotics and prosthetics businesses provide patient services worth more than $3.45 billion annually, according to AOPA.
The cost of a prosthetic limb varies depending on the patient and their practitioner, but can go as high as $50,000 for a microprocessor-powered device, officials said.
The groundwork for Dayton’s prosthetics industry was laid in part by Hans Mauch, a former German scientist who took part in post-World War II experimental weapons research at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. Mauch, whose close friend was an amputee, worked to develop prosthetics in the basement workshop of his Dayton home. He founded Mauch Laboratories in 1959 to pursue his prosthetics research full time.
Mauch created the first hydraulic compression knee control unit, said Rob Hoskins, a clinical applications engineer at Prosthetic Design Inc., an Englewood-based prosthetics research, development and manufacturing company. “He developed it in the late ’50s, early ’60s, and it’s still used today,” Hoskins said.
Mauch Laboratories’ local operations shut down after Ossur acquired the company in 2000. However, other area prosthetics manufacturers and clinics are seeing growth, in part because of the nation’s aging population, officials said.
More than 60 percent of nontraumatic lower-limb amputations occur in people with diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association.
“Prosthetics and orthotics can make the quality of life better for these individuals and make them as productive as possible,” said Mark Horwitz, clinical director of orthotics at OrPro Prosthetics and Orthotics. The Dayton-based company employs more than 40 people at its Moraine fabricating facility and clinics in Dayton, Centerville, Middletown, Springfield, Piqua and Richmond, Ind.
Prosthetic Design Inc. has introduced several new products in recent years “that are catching on clinically,” fueling company growth, Hoskins said. The company manufactures prosthetic lower limb components, sockets and other materials. PDI employs seven full-time staff and four to six college co-op students.
Strange said Endolite’s business has “skyrocketed” during the past two years because of the company’s high-tech prosthetics, which use computer and wireless technology to fine-tune the device to the patient’s natural walking pattern.
“Getting a person back into their normal daily living, walking and doing what they did before they lost the limb is obviously our number one goal,” Strange said. “The newer technologies that we have really assist in that smooth and quick transition into the prosthetic. We think that has been a major part into our growth.”