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Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center - Houston, Texas

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Houston First VA to Fit Patient with PowerFoot BIOM

February 23, 2011

PowerFoot Mark and Randy

“I feel like I have my leg back and I can do the things I used to do,” said Randall Tipton, a 20-year Army Special Forces Veteran who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, with Mark Benveniste, R.N., B.S., C.P., Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center certified prosthetist.
PHOTO: Bobbi Gruner, PAO.

HOUSTON – The Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center (MEDVAMC) recently became the first VA medical center to fit a patient with the iWalk PowerFoot BIOMTM, just weeks after Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio and Walter Reed in Washington, D.C. This technologically advanced prosthesis is the world’s first bionic lower leg system to replace the action of the foot, Achilles tendon, and calf muscle and offer a near normalized gait for amputees.

This prosthetic device, funded by the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense and developed by Hugh Herr, Ph.D. of the Massachusetts Institute Of Technology Biomechatronics Group, is clinically shown to replace lost muscle function, allowing amputees to walk with normal metabolic rate and speed.

Currently in early market release, preliminary results for the device are groundbreaking for the field of prosthetics.

“We have seen a significant difference in function in this device over the other 200 plus feet we have used here at the DeBakey VA,” said Mark Benveniste, R.N., B.S., C.P., MEDVAMC certified prosthetist. “It is the most improvement over conventional prosthetics in the last 20 years.”

In addition to metabolic cost reduction, the ankle range of motion is increased by nearly 50 percent thus actually replacing energy and generating propulsion. The PowerFoot BiOM uses sensors and a motor to propel the foot through each step, keeping simple walking from being a drain on people who have lost a leg.

“I feel like I have my leg back and I can do the things I used to do,” said Randall Tipton, a 20-year Army Special Forces Veteran who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. “It just helps out a lot. It takes the strain off my back, my hips. I don’t feel as tired at the end of the day.”

“It is important for the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center to offer our veterans a wide variety of advanced products,” said Angela Bishop, MEDVAMC Prosthetic Treatment Center chief. “Our goal is to increase mobility and improve quality of life for a greater range of amputees than ever before.”

No less important than new prosthetic technology is the overall care an amputee receives during rehabilitation. The model for that care has changed over the years to improve services to VA patients. The goal is not only to teach amputees to walk or use an artificial arm and hand, but to integrate body, mind, and machine. Continuing care and long-term support from VA multi-disciplinary teams have shown that patients often can improve their functioning months or years after their injuries or amputation.

“Veterans at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center continue to benefit from the latest scientific advances in health care and the newest technology available on the market today,” said Helene Henson, M.D., Rehabilitation Care Line executive.


Awarded re-designation for Magnet Recognition for Excellence in Nursing Services in 2008, the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center serves as the primary health care provider for more than 120,000 veterans in southeast Texas. Veterans from around the country are referred to the MEDVAMC for specialized diagnostic care, radiation therapy, surgery, and medical treatment including cardiovascular surgery, gastrointestinal endoscopy, nuclear medicine, ophthalmology, and treatment of spinal cord injury and diseases. The MEDVAMC is home to a Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Clinic; Network Polytrauma Center; an award-winning Cardiac and General Surgery Program; Liver Transplant Center; VA Epilepsy and Cancer Centers of Excellence; VA Substance Abuse Disorder Quality Enhancement Research Initiative; Health Services Research & Development Center of Excellence; VA Rehabilitation Research of Excellence focusing on mild to moderate traumatic brain injury; Mental Illness Research, Education and Clinical Center; and one of the VA’s six Parkinson’s Disease Research, Education, and Clinical Centers. Including the outpatient clinics in Beaumont, Conroe, Galveston, Houston, Lufkin, and Richmond, MEDVAMC outpatient clinics logged more than one million outpatient visits in fiscal year 2010. For the latest news releases and information about the MEDVAMC, visit