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Montreal woman gets first osseointegration surgery in Canada

A Montreal woman says her quality of life is about to improve dramatically now that she has had surgery never before offered in Canada. The amputee had access to a rare procedure thanks to it being publicly funded. Phil Carpenter reports.

A Montreal woman is hoping her quality of life will improve now that she had access to a rare procedure that is being publicly funded for the first time in Canada.

Last September, Michèle Forget was fitted with a new prosthetic limb using a procedure at the Montreal General Hospital called osseointegration.

“It’s is basically putting a metal rod into the femur or tibia of the amputees in order to avoid the need for a socket,” explained MUHC orthopedic surgeon Robert Turcotte, who conducted the surgery.

READ MORE: Teen builds his own robotic prosthetic arm using Lego

Forget lost her left leg above the knee four years ago because of a motorcycle accident. She was then fitted with a conventional prosthetic leg with a socket, but she had problems.

“She had a lot of pain and skin irritation from the socket,” said Dr. Natalie Habra from the Gingras-Lindsay Rehabilitation Centre where Forget is being treated. “There were some days when she couldn’t wear it.”

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According to Habra, it was because of these problems that Forget qualified for the procedure.

Turcotte said though these surgeries have been happening in private clinics and in other countries for years, they’re still quite rare.

“Only about 25 have been operated abroad,” he told Global News.

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He added that he’s the only one qualified to do the operation in Canada, and he’s done only eight. But now that it’s being covered by medicare, he expects to be doing many more.

“With the Quebec program, we have the budget for 50 procedures a year,” he said.

Forget is thrilled with the new prosthetic.

“I feel so good,” she laughed. “So light.”

She pointed out that she’ll be able to wear it all day because it’s more comfortable, and that she has a larger range of motion, meaning she’s able to kneel and even cross her legs. Also, she said she can sense touch, meaning she can feel the difference between carpet or tile floors, for example.

“I feel like there’s something there, just like the other leg,” Forget said. “And I have no pain on the top, so I can sit like everyone, and I will walk more.”

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Turcotte concedes that infection is the main risk with this operation but even that is usually mild.

Habra cautioned that Forget still has several more weeks of rehabilitation ahead, but at the end she should be walking on her own.

“She’ll be able to walk without any technical aids and she’ll be able to go back to her activities,” she explained.

Forget laughed and said she is looking forward to getting back to low impact sports and even horseback riding.

“They’re waiting for me,” she laughed. “Yes!”