LSU student hopes to save horses with prosthetics
BATON ROUGE - A horse with a prosthetic leg is blazing a trail for research at LSU that could save other horses' lives one day.
LSU vet student Niki Marie Hansen wants to make the first implanted prosthetic for horses. Her test subject, "Molly", currently uses a traditional fitted prosthetic after she lost her lower front foot in a dog attack.
"As a kid, I always wondered why can't a horse have a prosthetic leg like a big person does," said Hansen.
When she got to vet school, Hansen learned prosthetics can be a death sentence for a horse because of how much they rely on all four of their legs to handle their weight. Many horses have to eventually be euthanized.
"They gets sores (because) they put a lot of weight on the limb, and they have a lot of problems with the socket interface itself because they are so heavy," said Hansen. "How do you get around from the pressure that the sockets put on the skin?"
That's where Hansen's solution comes in.
"You don't put a prosthetic on a horse," she said, "you put a prosthetic in a horse."
Hansen says a proper internal prosthetic can better work with the horse's body to support its weight. The process is called osseointegration, which would allow prosthetics to be implanted into the bone of a horse instead of just on the outer part of the leg.
Molly's owner, Kaye Harris, said if the research is successful it could go a long way to keeping Molly healthy and comfortable.
"I think there's a lot of hope and there will be applications for this," Harris said, "you have to start somewhere."
To do that, Hansen said she's working to raise $25,000 for prosthetic legs, surgical instruments and CT scans. Hansen organized a crowdfunding campaign through LSU to help raise the money, which you can donate to here.
Hansen says she hopes once her research is complete she'll be able to save the animals she loves from being needlessly put down.
"There's no other option, and from the beginning of time that's what has always happened, but it doesn't need to be what continues to happen with so much more new technology," she said.