Background: Microprocessor controlled prosthetic knees (MPK) offer opportunities for improved walking stability and function, but some devices’ swing phase features may exceed needs of users with invariable cadence. One MPK offers computerized control of only stance (C-Leg Compact).
Objective: To assess Medicare Functional Classification Level K2 walkers’ ramp negotiation performance, function and balance while using a non-MPK (NMPK) compared to the C-Leg Compact.
Study Design: Crossover.
Methods: Gait while ascending and descending a ramp (stride characteristics, kinematics, electromyography) and function were assessed in participant’s existing NMPK and again in the C-Leg Compact following accommodation.
Results: Ramp ascent and descent were markedly faster in the C-Leg Compact compared to the NMPK (p ≤ 0.006), owing to increases in stride length (p ≤ 0.020) and cadence (p ≤ 0.020). Residual limb peak knee flexion and ankle dorsiflexion were significantly greater (12.9° and 4.9° more, respectively) during single limb support while using the C-Leg Compact to descend ramps. Electromyography (mean, peak) did not differ significantly between prosthesis. Function improved in the C-Leg Compact as evidenced by a significantly faster Timed Up and Go and higher functional questionnaire scores.
Conclusions: Transfemoral K2 walkers exhibited significantly improved function and balance while using the stance-phase only MPK compared to their traditional NMPK.
Instability, reduced function and falls are common in deconditioned transfemoral amputees. Selection and use of prosthetic componentry that promotes greater stability in more challenging environments is essential to improve the safety, function, quality of life and independence of individuals functioning at the K2 walking level.