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Naval Medical Center San Diego expanding its prosthetics lab

Veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars are arriving at the Naval Medical Center San Diego with multiple amputations — and a need for prosthetics suited to multiple activities.

October 08, 2012|By Tony Perry, Los Angeles Times
  • Prosthetic specialists Kevin Kohler, left, and Peter Harsch make adjustments at Naval Medical Center San Diego as a veteran takes his first steps on a set of "stubbies" in this 2011 photo.
Prosthetic specialists Kevin Kohler, left, and Peter Harsch make adjustments… (Don Bartletti, Los Angeles…)

To meet the needs of an increasing number of amputees, Naval Medical Center San Diego is expanding its prosthetics lab where service personnel are fitted with artificial limbs and trained to use them.

In 2007, when the hospital opened its Comprehensive Combat and Complex Casualty Care (C-5) facility, the prosthetics department was designed to support 40 patients with single amputations.

Currently, the department is treating 100 active-duty personnel and 50 retirees, many with multiple amputations, officials said.

In 2011, C-5 fitted patients with 418 prosthetic devices, including feet, ankles, legs, hands and arms. In the first nine months of this year, the figure was 470.

To meet the increasing need, a therapy pool is being filled in to provide two additional treatment rooms, a check-in area, a storage space and a second set of parallel bars for a cost of $240,000, officials said.

The second set of parallel bars "will allow us to get two wounded warriors up on their legs at the same time, which will relieve some congestion in that area," said Lt. Cmdr. Wendy Stone, deputy director of the facility.

The wounded personnel not only need "walking legs" but also prosthetics that will allow them to return to participation in sports.

"They also want a running leg, a surfing leg and a swimming leg," Stone said. "They're very active, so we want to be able to fulfill that requirement."

In Iraq and Afghanistan, the enemy's weapon of choice has been the buried explosive, leading to many traumatic amputations for U.S. soldiers and Marines.

tony.perry@latimes.com

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