Researchers at the University of Applied Sciences Upper Austria are reporting the installation of the first prosthetic leg with the ability of letting the wearer feel the ground beneath. The device has sensors at the bottom of the soles that detect pressure differences applied throughout the foot. Before the fitting, the patient had a targeted sensory reinnervation procedure performed that transferred nerves in order to reactivate the nerves that led to the original foot.
The sensors in the prosthetic are therefore now able to send their data, via converted signals, to the nerves and so create actual natural sensations of what a real foot would feel when walking over terrain. They showed, at least in the initial patient, that the technology allowed the wearer of the prosthetic to be able to more easily walk, climb, and do things that otherwise would require quite a bit of practice to get right.
Moreover, the neural reinnervation procedure resulted in less pain for the patient that often occurs from neural scarring. The researchers believe that these new advancements will also help alleviate phantom limb pain by actually using the nerves that used to work with now missing feet.