BioMed Student and Company Enhance Prosthetics

Cathy Rawers, a CEAS Biomedical Engineering student, experiences success with her design work for Prosthetic Design Inc., her co-op company.

Date: February 28, 2012
By: Kelley Ujvary


Left: A microprocessor knee on a chassis. Right: A Cosm-EasyTM on a chassis.

Cathy Rawers, a 5th year Biomedical Engineering student, spent her co-op work quarter at Prosthetic Design Inc.  Rawers aims to make a difference in the lives of prosthetic patients through the Cosm-Easy™ project, an assignment of hers while at Prosthetic Design Inc.

“While co-oping, I have been working on a line of cosmetic protective covers for microprocessor knees.  This co-op experience has given me the chance to have full responsibility of the Cosm-EasyTM project,” says Rawers.  While she did not originate the idea for this project, she was the brains and driving force behind development, testing, and production. 

A microprocessor knee is used for a patient who had an above the knee amputation.  This special artificial limb contains a computer to monitor the knee during use and provides added stability and stumble control for the user.  “The computer in the knee allows free swing of the leg until certain parameters are met,” says Rawers.

With the increase of microprocessor knees in the last ten years, Rawers and Prosthetic Design Inc. have plenty of opportunity to develop and enhance this prosthetic limb to better serve their users.   Rawers explains that, “a custom above the knee cosmesis can take 5-10 man hours of work and 1-2 days of the patient not wearing their prosthesis. This causes a great monetary expense and distress to the patient who temporarily loses mobility.”


A Cosm-EasyTM on a test patient.

The end goal of this product is to create a cover that can be placed on a patient and they can be ready to go. “Something that would be faster and less expensive than the current alternatives,” she explains. 

“While protective covers for microprocessor knees exist, there are none currently on the market that also function as a cosmetic cover. Creating a protective cosmetic cover that is a right and left modular adjustable component made specifically to accommodate the most modern microprocessor knees can have a significant impact on the prosthetic field. Patients will be able to get a cosmetic protective cover with minimal time off of their prosthesis. It will also be easier for prosthetists to remove and reinstall the cover to make adjustments.”

This product is designed for the patient and comes with important benefits for those who are using it.  The cover protects the knee from getting damaged and improves the look, which is a very important benefit for most users.  Rawers explains that “for a lot of amputees, they just want to look normal.  Having a cover like this makes it appear they are simply wearing a knee brace rather than  wearing a prosthesis.”

The results of the product Rawers developed have been very positive for her and for Prosthetic Design Inc.  In the first week of release, 12 Cosm-EasyTM covers were sold.  “The psychological boost Cosm-EasyTM gives to the patient is priceless,” she states.  “An ad for Cosm-EasyTM was just released in the O&P Edge magazine and high praise has been received at trade shows most importantly from test patients.”

Rawers graduates this June and is looking forward to a wedding and a career in the biomedical industry.