Effects of a Powered Ankle-Foot Prosthesis and Physical Therapy on Function for Individuals With Transfemoral Limb Loss: Rationale, Design, and Protocol for a Multisite Clinical Trial

Jason T. Maikos*, Alison L. Pruziner, Brad D. Hendershot, David V. Herlihy, John M. Chomack, Michael J. Hyre, Samuel L. Phillips, Alexis N. Sidiropoulos, Christopher L. Dearth, Leif M. Nelson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Powered ankle-foot prosthetic devices can generate net positive mechanical work during gait, which mimics the physiological ankle. However, gait deviations can persist in individuals with transfemoral limb loss because of habit or lack of rehabilitation. Prosthetic research efforts favor the design or evaluation of prosthetic componentry and rarely incorporate any type of rehabilitation, despite evidence suggesting that it is critical for minimizing gait imbalances. Given the accelerated rate of innovation in prosthetics, there is a fundamental knowledge gap concerning how individuals with transfemoral limb loss should learn to correctly use powered ankle-foot devices for maximum functional benefit. Because of the recent advances in prosthetic technology, there is also a critical unmet need to develop guidelines for the prescription of advanced prosthetic devices that incorporate both physical and psychological components to identify appropriate candidates for advanced technology. Objective: The primary goal of this investigation is to examine the roles of advanced prosthetic technology and a device-specific rehabilitative intervention on gait biomechanics, functional efficacy, and pain in individuals with transfemoral limb loss. The secondary goal is to develop preliminary rehabilitation guidelines for advanced lower limb prosthetic devices to minimize gait imbalances and maximize function and to establish preliminary guidelines for powered ankle-foot prosthetic prescription. Methods: This prospective, multisite study will enroll 30 individuals with unilateral transfemoral limb loss. At baseline, participants will undergo a full gait analysis and assessment of function, neurocognition, cognitive load, subjective preferences, and pain using their current passive prosthesis. The participants will then be fitted with a powered ankle-foot device and randomized into 2 equal groups: a powered device with a device-specific rehabilitation intervention (group A) or a powered device with the current standard of practice (group B). Group A will undergo 4 weeks of device-specific rehabilitation. Group B will receive the current standard of practice, which includes basic device education but no further device-specific rehabilitation. Data collection procedures will then be repeated after 4 weeks and 8 weeks of powered ankle use. Results: This study was funded in September 2017. Enrollment began in September 2018. Data collection will conclude by March 2024. The initial dissemination of results is expected in August 2024. Conclusions: The projected trends indicate that the number of individuals with limb loss will dramatically increase in the United States. The absence of effective, evidence-based interventions may make individuals with transfemoral limb loss more susceptible to increased secondary physical conditions and degenerative changes. With this expected growth, considerable resources will be required for prosthetic and rehabilitation services. Identifying potential mechanisms for correcting gait asymmetries, either through advanced prosthetic technology or rehabilitative interventions, can provide a benchmark for understanding the optimal treatment strategies for individuals with transfemoral limb loss.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere53412
JournalJMIR Research Protocols
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2024
Externally publishedYes


  • amputation
  • limb loss
  • lower extremity
  • physical therapy
  • powered prosthetic ankle-foot device


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