OTWorld: Welcome Back
Inspiration and Motivation for Global Orthopaedic Treatment and Care
"Welcome back" is the motto at OTWorld after the break due to the pandemic, as prosthetists and orthotists, orthopaedic footwear professionals, engineers, doctors and therapists from around the world come together from 10 to 13 May in Leipzig. The most important global meeting of experts in orthopaedic treatment and care combines a world congress and a leading world trade show.
Together with the programme committee, congress presidents Prof Martin Engelhardt and Dipl-Ing Merkur Alimusaj have been working for two years to plan the return to an in-person event. They are preparing keynote lectures, symposia, satellite events, interdisciplinary leaders, a series of free paper lectures, practice-oriented courses and factory talks for the World Congress at OTWorld. A diverse array of topics are represented, ranging from pediatric orthopaedics to sports orthopaedics, from professional training to visions for the future and from craftsmanship to foundational research.
"Despite all the pandemic pitfalls and concerns, we were able once again to recruit top national and international experts to the congress – this speaks for the format of OTWorld and the network of all those involved," the congress presidents emphasise. "Internationality and networking are essential in a globalised structure," notes Merkur Alimusaj. "We learn from each other – the excellent craft training in Germany and the high proportion of academic content taught in this field in the USA can lead to future-oriented synergies." Besides internationality, the congress presidents are also focused on strengthening interdisciplinary collaboration for patients' well-being. "It is our goal with the congress to improve interdisciplinary teamwork among prosthetists, orthotists, doctors and therapists," declares Prof Martin Engelhardt.
OTWorld's conceptual partner is the German Association of Orthopaedic Technology (BIV-OT) in Dortmund. As the umbrella organisation of the orthopaedic craft, BIV-OT represents more than 2,500 retail surgical stores and orthopaedic workshops with around 40,000 employees. Every year, the affiliated clinics provide more than 20 million patients with medical aids. "Each individual person stands at the centre of our care and treatment," explains Alf Reuter, President of BIV-OT. "At the congress in Leipzig, we can find inspiration and motivation for our future work, gain familiarity with new perspectives and scientifically-grounded technical expertise, or experience global innovations in the market for orthopaedic aids at the exhibitions — and all of this with a focus on practical applications."
Keynote Speakers: Four Cutting-Edge Research Approaches for the Future of Prosthetic Care
Four keynote speakers are leading the international exchange: Univ.-Prof Oskar C. Aszmann (Vienna) and Dr Dr Agnes Sturma, Prof Dr-Ing. Sami Haddadin (Munich), Prof Kenton Kaufman (Minnesota, USA) and Prof Bertolt Meyer (Chemnitz). Topics covered by the researchers range from TMR and osseointegration to AI and prosthetics, opportunities and risks of digitalisation as well as registry research.
Back to Daily Life With Prosthetics That Can Feel
In the first "tandem format" keynote lecture in the history of the world congress, Prof Oskar Aszmann, Medical University of Vienna, together with physiotherapist and co-presenter Dr Dr Agnes Sturma, will bring an interdisciplinary approach to the topic of "TMR and Osseointegration" with a focus on amputations above the elbow. In Leipzig, the professor will introduce the newest research on targeted muscle reinnervation (TMR) – the transfer of unused nerves to the stump – and osseointegration – direct anchoring of the prosthesis in the bone. Patients control the prosthesis by means of TMR, but they first have to learn how to handle their new neurological reality after the nerve transfer, Prof Oskar Aszmann explains. How this works, and how users learn to perceive their prosthesis as an authentic, biological body part, will be laid out by Dr Dr Agnes Sturma at her keynote in Leipzig. Practical applications will be the central focus of the tandem keynote on 12 May from 2 pm to 2:30 pm. "Since so many people injure or even lose their hands as a result of workplace accidents, we are interested in finding the best ways to help them make their way back into day-to-day work," says Prof Oskar Aszmann. "For example, how does our research help a forestry worker return to his work environment after an arm amputation and cut down a tree again?" The experts will also be keeping an eye on the economic efficiency of treatment and care for the community.
Robotics: Approximating Human Performance
Instead of nerve transfers, Prof Dr-Ing. Sami Haddadin, Chair of Robotics and Systems Intelligence and Director of the Munich Institute of Robotics and Machine Intelligence (MIRMI) at the Technical University of Munich is focusing on the use of machine intelligence to improve prostheses. "We want to develop mathematical algorithms and derive new technologies from them that can achieve, for example, the level of flexibility of the human wrist," Prof Haddadin explains. Researchers also hope to develop artificial muscles that can approximate human performance. "We are working with methods involving machine learning and machine intelligence towards making future prostheses a human extension of the body – just as legs and arms don't only work mechanically, but are rather governed by complex adaptive processes," the researcher explains. Prof Haddadin speaks of a paradigm shift in recent years from a mechanical understanding of prostheses toward intelligent systems, even if there is still a long path ahead until they can be incorporated in industrial products. In his keynote, "Intelligentes Steuern und Lernen in der Prothetik" (Intelligent Control and Learning in Prosthetics), on 13 May from 12 to 12:30 pm, he will report on advances in research on machine intelligence and robotics and the benefits they could offer for the development of prostheses.
A Look at Stereotyping
Prof Bertolt Meyer also believes that increasing digitalisation offers entirely new opportunities for people with disabilities. Paraplegics have digitalisation to thank for the ability to temporarily walk with exoskeletons, and people with multiple disabilities have benefited from the ability to control medical aids via eye-tracking technology, to name just a few examples. "Our research shows that the new technology offers not only functional but also psychological advantages," explains the Professor of Work, Organizational and Economic Psychology at the Chemnitz University of Technology. He himself uses a prosthetic hand from Össur. He controls his prosthesis with muscle impulses, whether in daily life or as a DJ in the club scene. Prof Dr Bertolt Meyer understands the opportunities that these medical aids offer, but is also frequently confronted with the prejudices of people without prostheses. How do people without prostheses view people with prostheses? The question of stereotyping towards wearers of bionic prostheses is the focus of his current research. Prof Bertolt Meyer will present the initial results in his keynote, entitled: "Digitalisierung: Chancen und Risiken für Menschen mit Beeinträchtigungen" (Digitalisation: Opportunities and Risks for People with Impairments) on 11 May from 2 to 2:30 pm at OTWorld.
USA: What Can Really be Achieved With Artificial Limbs?
Registries are an important topic in medicine these days, with the goal of gathering further evidence-based insights into the treatment and care of patients. There is still no federal exoprosthesis registry in Germany, despite the fact that numerous associations, such as the German Association of Orthopaedic Technology (BIV-OT) and the German Society for Interdisciplinary Medical Aid Provision (DGIHV) have long demanded one, not least because of the need for medical device regulation (MDR). In light of this reality, it's worth taking a look across the pond to the USA: Prof Kenton Kaufman from the W. Hall Wendel Jr. Musculoskeletal Center at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota specialises in musculoskeletal rehabilitation research. The professor is directing a project for the development of a national US Limb Loss and Preservation Registry (LLPR) that records information every day on the causes, treatment procedures, and outcomes of more than 500 amputations in the United States. The registry is intended to help improve prevention, treatment, and rehabilitation efforts for this section of the population. In his keynote on 10 May from 2 pm to 2:30 pm, Prof Kenton Kaufman will highlight the possibilities of registry research and explain how evidence-based decision making can help improve patient treatment and care.