By Brian Zalewski and Richard Miltenberger, Naval Medical Center San Diego Comprehensive Combat and Complex Casualty Care
CLANK! CLANK! CLANK! Rivets are secured in place by hammering.
A constant buzz from the vacuum pump hangs in the air as background noise, accompanied by the distinctive smell of resin and glue. We are known around Naval Medical Center San Diego (NMCSD) as the mechanics of the medical device world. People often stop by to borrow a tool, ask for assistance in fixing broken items or to fulfil their “gadget” curiosity. So, what’s new they ask?
Our answer: IDEO™ (Intrepid Dynamic Exoskeletal Orthosis). It is the latest advancement in orthotics, or “bracing” technology for the lower leg. Many of our wounded service members suffer a condition called limb salvage, where the leg has been severely wounded, but our skilled surgeons were able to save the leg from amputation. Depending on severity and mechanism of injury, these individuals often walk around in a tremendous amount of pain. That’s where the IDEO™ comes in: a brace designed by the military, for the military, to help our patients with limb salvage walk without pain again!
It can also be prescribed for many other injury applications, including arthritis, foot and ankle fusions, heel fractures, and the list goes on. What’s the secret to its success? It works by unloading body weight off of the heel and using a dynamic spring to help propel you forward. And once our patients get their IDEO™, it’s not over. We train each patient how to use it for maximum results!
Upon receiving their brace, IDEO™ patients are enrolled in a four-week Return to Run (RTR) physical training program. Also at this time, their gait is analyzed through motion capture and force plates, so that exact data can be correlated to their progress. The Result? A collaborative effort involving all aspects of rehabilitation medicine and effective application of technologies that truly enhances outcomes. Upon completion of the program, each and every patient has been coached on technique, gait, and use of their new IDEO™ as to minimize future problems. This is preventive medicine 101, and we’re proud of it. Our team goal here at Comprehensive Combat and Complex Casualty Care (C5) is to treat the whole patient, head to toe, so nothing goes overlooked.
In addition, we’ve recently added a weekly outdoor adventure to our IDEO™ and RTR program. Most weeks this involves hiking. Of note, recently a group summited Cowle’s Mountain, the highest peak in San Diego. We also had our first patients participate in the C5 Surf Clinic at Del Mar Beach. Each patient was assigned to a trainer, given a board, and then they went straight to the waves for some serious exercise.
Be sure to keep an eye out for our injured service members, as they continue to push the limits, both in returning to active duty or moving on to conquer their next goal in life!