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C-Leg lower limb prosthesis

Ottobock is celebrating a quarter century of the C-Leg

The C-Leg turns 25

A milestone for people with prosthetic legs

The C-Leg is a prosthesis for people with a limb difference or who have lost their leg due to an accident or a disease such as cancer. With it, thousands of users have been able to walk again for the first time, as if with healthy legs. A small computer in the prosthesis ensures this: The microprocessor turns data collected by sensors into digital control commands. Thus the prosthesis automatically sets the appropriate gait for the respective environment. Walking on stairs, level streets or gradients becomes intuitive for users without having to think about the next step.

The new C-Leg

Safe, intuitive, customisable

Twenty-five years of continuous research and user requests have been incorporated in the latest update: An exchangeable, paintable cover now allows you to create your own designs. Equipped with stumble recovery Plus, the joint is also even safer. Support for going down ramps and stairs step-over-step ensures an even more natural, safer gait.

The new C-Leg in bullet points

  • Customisable design: The users spoke, we listened: The new C-Leg gets a new look and new functions – inspired by wearers. The new C-Leg gets a new colour variant with Midnight Shadow next to Desert Pearl. There is also a customisable shield insert (cover) with instructions for painting and designing it yourself.

  • Stumble recovery Plus: The increased resistance compared to the stance phase is active during the entire swing phase. As a result, the new C-Leg helps to prevent falls even more effectively.

  • Even safer and more natural: The improved supported descent of ramps and stairs ensures a safe, natural gait. Sitting support ensures controlled, smooth sitting down. The intuitive stance function detects from the movement when users want to stand relaxed and when they need support for the next step.

  • MyMode Plus: Users can configure even more settings using their smartphone in order to optimally adapt the C-Leg: Whereas previously only settings in the flexion direction could be adjusted in MyMode Plus, settings in the flexion and extension direction can now be configured in MyMode Plus.

  • Simplified training: A new training function helps users get used to the new joint and get the best out of their microprocessor knee. Acoustic feedback helps to initiate the swing phase correctly.

  • Simplified charging: The new C-Leg is easy to charge with one hand. Sleep mode that can be selected in the cockpit app ensures a longer battery life when the joint is not active, for example, while sitting.

  • Digital: Software changes improve user-friendliness for O&P professionals. New video tutorials simplify handling of the prosthesis and provide expert knowledge. In addition, the software provides suggestions for setting values, appropriate for the respective user, which technicians can adopt, adjust or configure entirely themselves.

Interview Rebecca Brunner

"My prosthesis is a great eye-catcher"

Fashion student Rebecca Brunner from Austria lost her left leg in a moped accident. accident. She thinks it is important that her prosthesis is not perceived as something negative. Immediately after the first fitting she began to paint it: "With the adjustable protective shield I can play with colors and motifs," says the 21-year-old. She dedicated her final project "Game of life" to individual prosthesis designs: "If you're already in a situation that you can't change, you can at least make the best of it. My C-Leg has thus become a part of my personality!"

Rebecca Brunner bemalt ihre C-Leg Schutzblenden
Rebecca Brunner (Credit: Ottobock)
Interview with Ottobock Designer Andreas Hogh

Prostheses design: “Expressing personality is a deeply rooted need.”

Twenty-five years ago, Ottobock launched the first computer-controlled leg prosthesis in the market: The C-Leg. It sets standards to this day – also in terms of its design. The design came from design agencies for a long time. Today, more in-house designers are developing the characteristic look of Ottobock prostheses. Among them is the industrial designer Andreas Hogh from Vienna. He is involved in the design of prostheses such as the latest C-Leg update, which will be launched on 10 May 2022. In this interview, he talks about what matters, how the appearance has changed over time and how prosthetic design in films and video games has contributed.

Andreas Hogh, Industrial Designer Systems Engineering bei Ottobock in Wien
Andreas Hogh, Industrial Designer Systems Engineering at Ottobock Vienna and his draft of the new C-Leg design. (Credit: Andreas Hogh / Ottobock)

“With the C-Leg, we have introduced a new dimension of walking for transfemoral amputees, a true milestone in prosthetics. Mechatronics puts people first – they no longer have to think about every step, they gain freedom and safety for an active everyday life. With 100,000 fittings and numerous studies, the C-Leg is rightly regarded as the gold standard in prosthetics today.”

Professor Hans Georg Näder, owner and Chairman of the Board of Ottobock SE & Co. KGaA

The C-Leg story

Revolution in in orthopaedic technology

Canadian engineer PhD Kelly James invented the prototype of the C-Leg and presented it at the ISPO (International Society for Prosthetics & Orthotics) World Congress in Chicago in 1992.
Hans Georg Näder, then managing partner of Ottobock, became aware of the revolutionary innovation and signed an exclusive contract with Kelly James on the spot.
Ottobock continued to develop the C-Leg over the following years. Dr. Hans Dietl was in charge of the technological development. The head of development in Vienna at the time led the innovation to market maturity.
The market-ready C-Leg was presented for the first time at the World Prosthetics Congress in Nuremberg on 10 May 1997.
Users were able to fine tune the gait themselves for the first time using a home computer, and later a smartphone via a Bluetooth connection.
Equipping a prosthesis with a small computer enabled users to walk more naturally and safely. The microprocessor can evaluate data from integrated sensors and control the leg depending on the ground conditions.
A patented method made it easier to walk on surfaces such as sand, grass or gravel. The sequence of smaller steps and the flowing gait at changing walking speeds were harmoniously controlled.
To date, 100,000 prosthetic leg fittings have been performed with a C-Leg. This makes it the most commonly fitted microprocessor-controlled knee joint (MPK) today.
12 Stories from C-Leg users

Human Empowerment over 25 years

Rider with leg prostheses

Julia Porzelt (DE)

The 26-year-old from Chiemsee was born without knees, lower legs and feet. Therefore, she wears the C-Leg from Ottobock on both legs. She says, “The prostheses are part of me. I put them on in the morning and take them off at night. They allow me to live my life as independently as possible.” Her great passion is sports: “I have been riding horses since I was a child. Meanwhile, I'm competing in international tournaments and have already been a Bavarian champion several times and a German junior champion once.” She does not wear the prostheses while riding, only when handling the horse – for feeding and saddling.

The first wearer

“Patient Zero” is flying around the world

“My friend said to me on the trip: Bernd, you are not disabled!” says Bernd Schwien. “When it comes to lugging a 40-litre canister through the jungle, the amputation doesn't matter anymore. That means the world to me!” “Patient zero,” the first wearer of the C-Leg mechatronic knee joint (MPK), was present at its market launch in 1997. He says the prosthesis that was revolutionary at the time enabled him to live his life as freely and actively as he does today. So he fulfilled his big dream in March and flew through Costa Rica in an open gyrocopter. Ottobock was allowed to accompany him.

He witnessed the development of the first C-Leg

In 1983 the university professor from Lower Saxony would not have believed that he was able to do this. He lost his left leg at the age of 19 after being run over by a driver while standing at a traffic light. He barely survived and developed a new attitude to life: “Nothing is impossible!” He even managed to earn every available hobby pilot's license with his prosthetic foot. Schwien became one of about a dozen Europeans with a leg prosthesis and a pilot's license – thanks to his C-Leg, as he says. His path led the young doctoral student to the prosthesis manufacturer Ottobock after his amputation. There he had the opportunity to tell the developers what he wanted as a user. In 1993, he became a test runner for the prototype of the new C-Leg mechatronic knee joint: “Every technology I had used up to that point quickly reached its limits. No knee joint lasted longer than seven or eight months.” It was different with the C-Leg. Schwien was able to move for the first time at the walking speed he desired as a young man, to climb stairs as before, and the automatic stumble recovery caught him if he faltered. Sensors registered the surface on which he was moving, so that the leg could automatically switch to the appropriate setting – a milestone. “This gave me confidence and security. For the first time after my accident, I no longer needed to consciously think about my movements”, he says.

”Mr. C-Leg's” flight through Costa Rica

After his doctorate in economics, Bernd Schwien joined Ottobock as Product Manager and worked on the further development of the C-Leg: “At one point, my name in the team was Mr. C-Leg, because I was always patient zero for new prototypes,” he says. ”That was exciting! At the time, I couldn't imagine that this would set such standards.” Later, Bernd Schwien accompanied other users as they tried out the new mechatronic prosthesis: “I looked them in the eye and experienced pure happiness,” he recalls. The new feeling of security allowed them to do things in a very short time that they could not imagine before. Bernd Schwien doesn't wear a C-Leg anymore, but the Genium for highly active users: “I rode unsteady boats in Costa Rica and ran through soft sand,” he says. ”And, of course, I carried canisters. A lot has happened since 1997. Mechatronic prostheses have undergone a giant leap in development.” The C-Leg has paved the way for Bernd Schwien's life to no longer feel like a handicap: “I no longer say in the morning that I'm putting on my prosthesis. I'm putting my leg on!” Instead of a handicap, he says, he now refers to a functional impairment that can be compensated - also because of prostheses such as the C-Leg. 

Videos about Bernd Schwiens travel to Costa Rica you can find in 'Further information'.

Bernd Schwien 58 in Costa Rica (Photo: Willie Schumann)
Bernd Schwien in 1993 with the prototype of the first C-Leg (photos: Bernd Schwien)
Close up Bernd Schwien in 1993 with the prototype of the first C-Leg (photos: Bernd Schwien)
Over Costa Rica's nature: Bernd Schwien in an open gyrocopter (Photo: Willie Schumann)
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Press kit - The C-Leg turns 25

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The C-Leg with new charging function (photo: Ottobock)

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Product photo C-Leg

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The design of the new C-Leg

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Rebecca Brunner (Credit: Ottobock)

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The new C-Leg and user Georg Schober (photo: Ottobock)

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