News story

MOD to fund trial of life-changing surgery for amputees

The procedure could dramatically benefit some of the most injured serving personnel and veterans, such as freeing them from wheelchairs

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The MOD has successfully bid for £2 million of LIBOR funding to carry out a direct skeletal fixation (DSF) trial, which will enable some veterans and Service personnel to have potentially life-changing surgery.

Serving and veteran amputees are currently provided with highly capable socket-based prosthetics, but due to the nature of their injuries, some people suffer from complex stump complications. The benefits of being able to walk on prosthetics are both psychological as well as physical. It can dramatically improve the lifestyle of the individual and their long-term health, reduces dependency and can have economic benefits.

DSF (also known as Osseo-Integration) involves inserting a titanium prosthetic implant directly into the bone, removing socket-based technology. It therefore does away with the complications associated with traditional prosthetics.

Minister for Defence Personnel and Veterans, Mark Lancaster MP, said:

The Government’s commitment to those who have made enormous sacrifices on recent operations is made clear by this award of LIBOR funding and the forthcoming trial. We want our personnel to know that we appreciate they risk injury while defending the nation and that we will support their needs. It is also important that this trial extends to some of our most seriously injured veterans.

A small number of Service personnel have already undergone MOD-funded DSF surgery with encouraging results. The first three procedures were carried out in Australia and a further two have been done in the UK by military surgeons, under the supervision of an Australian expert.

The new funding will enable the extension of this initial pilot to a further 20 carefully selected patients from April 2016, for two-and-a-half years. It is planned that the DSF procedure will be carried out at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham, with follow on rehabilitation at the Defence Medical Rehabilitation Centre at Headley Court.

Acknowledging the potential benefit of the procedure, NHS England has independently commissioned a study to evaluate DSF outcomes. The procedure could ultimately be of value to NHS patients across the UK, beyond the military to the broader population.

Selection for the trial will be on a case-by-case basis; work is underway to determine the clinical criteria to identify those for whom the procedure would be appropriate. The MOD, NHS England, the Department of Health and Service charities, led by BLESMA, are working together to determine the exact referral pathway for the trial.

Published 27 November 2015