Background: Microprocessor-controlled knee joints appeared on the market a decade ago. These joints are more sophisticated and more expensive than mechanical ones. The literature is contradictory regarding changes in gait and balance when using these sophisticated devices.
Methods: This study employed a crossover design to assess the comparative performance of a passive mechanical knee prosthesis compared to a microprocessor-controlled knee joint in 15 subjects with an above-knee amputation. Objective measurements of gait and balance were obtained.
Results: Subjects demonstrated significantly improved gait characteristics after receiving the microprocessor-controlled prosthetic knee joint (p<0.01). Improvements in gait were a transition from a hyperextended knee to a flexed knee during loading response which resulted in a change from an internal knee flexor moment to a knee extensor moment. The participants' balance also improved (p<0.01). All conditions of the Sensory Organization Test (SOT) demonstrated improvements in equilibrium score. The composite score also increased.
Conclusions: Transfemoral amputees using a microprocessor-controlled knee have significant improvements in gait and balance.