NEW ZEALAND ARTIFICIAL LIMB BOARD
Prevention is No. 1 with Diabetes
“We heartily support the theme of Diabetes Awareness Week (Tuesday 22 – Monday 28 November) with its emphasis on
prevention and footcare,” says Graeme Hall, Chair of the New Zealand Artificial Limb Board (NZALB). “The International
Diabetes Federation says ‘through good healthcare and informed self care, it is possible to prevent diabetes-related
amputations in the majority of cases’. We would be delighted if prevention measures were so successful that we had no
new diabetic patients at all. As it is, over 500 of our amputees have lost limbs because of diabetes.
“For them, all the messages in Diabetes Awareness Week apply - ongoing care, daily checks and careful hygiene to do
everything possible to stay healthy. Being active keeps the muscles firmly toned and exercised, which helps towards
maintaining the fit of the socket.”
Those who do become amputees can take comfort from the service of the NZALB, which is generally free to New Zealanders.
It has highly trained staff (clinical prosthetists, surgeons, and physiotherapists) who work as a team with the amputee
to get the best possible outcomes. A positive attitude goes a long way, and the service has many excellent role models
to help people take up their lives again with an artificial limb.
“We are proud to work with notable athletes, such as Katie Horan, world recording holding sprinter for 400 metres at the
Canadian Paralympic Championships, and Peter Horne, international bowls representative, both of Wellington. But our main
focus is helping people with amputations to quietly get on with their lives - working, running a home, gardening, doing
the shopping, just the ordinary, everyday things,” says Mr Hall.
To do this, the New Zealand Artificial Limb Board uses a wide range of tools and machinery in making limbs, and is right
up with the latest digital technology, somewhat similar to that used by Weta Workshops.
Although the plastercast method remains the method of choice for some fittings, the use of digital imaging is growing.
This method is cleaner and more convenient for the amputees. A series of cameras mounted on a hexagonal “T-ring”
produces a laser tracing of the amputee’s stump. The prosthetist then modifies the image on screen and e-mails it direct
to an automatic carver that carves a duplicate stump from a polystyrene block. The prosthetist uses this to shape an
individualised socket that fits over the patient’s stump and to which the artificial leg is attached.
“It means that the image can be taken in an instant, as opposed to half an hour or more for the plastercast method,”
says Mr Hall. “Our patients like it, and of course, it is a much cleaner process for them too. The carver is also
compatible with an orthotics software package and we understand that software for cranial masks is also being
The carver is situated centrally in Wellington Limb Centre, which services the other four Limb Centres - Auckland,
Hamilton, Christchurch and Dunedin.