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A prosthesis is an artificial device that replaces a missing body part. The prosthetic is intended to restore some of the function of that body part after an accident, disease, or congenital disorder. Prosthetics have come a long way over time and provide relief for many people who have undergone an amputation.
Loss of a limb or body part that requires a prosthesis may be caused by a traumatic accident, like a car crash, industrial accident, or burn injury. Other amputations may be caused by an infection or medical error. When an injury leads to the need for a prosthetic, the injury victim should be compensated for their loss by the individual who caused the injury.
What are Prosthetics?
A prosthesis is an artificial device that is intended to replace or partially replace a missing body part. From the Greek for “addition,” a prosthesis or prosthetic can restore some of the function of the loss of a body part caused by an injury, disease, or birth defect. Prosthetics refers to the science of creating an artificial body part and the part itself is called the prosthesis but these terms are often used interchangeably.
Some people are born without certain body parts or body functions. Babies and children with a congenital disorder may use a prosthesis for the rest of their lives without ever having had the use of the body part. Other people may lose a limb due to a traumatic event, infection, or disease. For adults who use a prosthesis, they may also have to go through physical therapy and training to use the new artificial body part and adapt to using the prosthesis.
Prosthetics have been used for thousands of years, with evidence of foot prosthetics found in ancient Egypt. Early prosthetics were generally made of wood and metal. A prosthesis could be used for aesthetic purposes or to restore function. The prosthesis could be very basic, such as the use of a wooden peg to replace a leg, or a metal hook to replace a hand.
Prosthetics have come a long way over time, with electronics, robotics, and 3D printing helping amputees replace lost body parts. Prosthetics are able to fit more comfortably, provide feedback, and look natural. Custom made prosthesis can even simulate real body parts, complete with hair, freckles, or even tattoos.
Common Types of Prosthetics
A prosthetic can be used to provide function and/or for cosmetic purposes. Some common prosthetics include:
- Hand prosthesis
- Foot prosthesis
- Leg prosthesis
- Limb prosthesis
- Cochlear implant
- Joint prosthesis
- Tracheo-esophageal voice prosthesis
- Ocular implant
- Orthotic devices
- Breast prosthesis
- Aqueous shunt prosthesis
- Hallux/toe implant
According to one study, there were about 1.6 million people living with the loss of a limb in 2005. An estimated 1 in 190 Americans is living with the loss of a limb. That number may more than double by the year 2050, to 3.6 million people living with the loss of a limb.
Lower Limb Prosthetics
The most common cause of loss of a lower limb was related to vascular disease, a condition affecting the circulatory system. Loss of a lower limb, such as the toes, feet, or lower legs, is often associated with diabetes mellitus (DM). In patients with Type 2 diabetes, poor blood flow can result in amputation of the extremities.
Another common cause of amputation for individuals in the U.S. is the loss of a limb during military service. Injuries and trauma caused by gunshot wounds, improvised explosive devices (IEDs), and explosions may lead to permanent damage to the foot, leg, or other body part, requiring the use of a prosthesis.
Lower limb prosthetics are generally categorized by the area of the amputation or replacement, including a transtibial or transfemoral prosthesis. A transtibial prosthesis is a below-the-knee artificial limb. Individuals with a transtibial prosthesis can generally recover normal movement with practice and therapy. A transfemoral prosthesis is used after an above-the-knee amputation. After a transfemoral amputation, it may be more difficult to recover normal movement. However, improved designs, materials, and technology can help individuals recover more movement and function, even with an above-the-knee amputation.
Upper Limb Prosthetics
The most common cause of amputation of an upper limb (fingers, hand, or arm) was due to trauma or workplace injury. Lower limb amputations are much more common than upper limb amputation. The most common upper limb amputation is partial hand amputation with loss of 1 or more fingers.
A transradial prosthesis is an artificial limb that replaces an arm below the elbow. A transhumeral prosthesis replaces an arm missing above-the-elbow. Early arm and hand prosthetics provided little function but myoelectric arms have much more function with electrodes that sense muscle movement to open and close the artificial hand.
Osseointegration is a procedure that allows a prosthesis to be attached to the bone of the patient. A traditional limb prosthesis attaches to the body through a socket design, where the prosthesis cups to conform to the stump. With osseointegration, a metal implant in the bone can attach to the prosthesis. This may provide better functionality with the prosthesis and avoid some of the socket-related issues.
Socket-based prosthetics require the soft tissue around the amputation to bear the weight and pressure of a prosthesis. This can cause problems including pressure sores, infections, and pain for the wearer. Problems with a prosthesis may cause the user to avoid extended use of the prosthesis, which could lead to reduced strength, muscle weakness, and bone weakness. Osseointegration may also increase the feeling and feedback of using a prosthesis.
The surgical procedure involved in osseointegration is more invasive and may require extended rehabilitation and therapy. There are also risks of using a bone-integrated prosthesis, including a lifelong risk of infection. Osseointegration is still a developing field but it may offer benefits to users who are eligible for this type of prosthesis.
Wearing and Using Prosthetics
Depending on the type of prosthesis, an amputee or prosthesis user has to take care to ensure safe and proper care of the body in connection with the prosthesis. Amputees may have to go through extended physical therapy, occupational therapy, education, and have mental health support to work adapt to using a prosthesis.
Stump care and wound care is important for amputees. A limb prosthesis, such as an artificial leg or artificial arm, attaches to the soft tissue of a stump. The stump may be under pressure and is subject to sweat, heat, moisture build-up. Proper stump care is necessary to keep the tissue clean and avoid infection or injury. This includes cleaning and inspecting the stump area and reporting any pain or concerns to your healthcare provider.
Physical therapy for amputees or individuals with a prosthesis can help improve physical function. This includes evaluation of the individual’s abilities, patient education, physical intervention, health promotion, exercise, and developing a rehabilitation plan. Physical therapy can help restore function after the loss of a body part or adapting to the use of a prosthesis.
Occupational therapy helps people engage in everyday activities. For people with a prosthesis, occupational therapists can help individuals regain skills in order to develop or maintain activities in the home, school, or workplace. This can include helping the individual prepare for amputation or use of a prosthesis, developing skills to perform daily activities, and adapt to the use of the prosthesis and loss of a body part.
Maintaining and Changing the Prosthesis
Over time, a prosthesis may require regular maintenance and upkeep. The socket or liner may need to be replaced or repaired after wear and tear. As the individual’s body changes, a prosthesis may need to be adjusted or replaced to ensure proper fit and function. Changing a prosthesis may be required multiple times for children who regularly grow out of a prosthesis.
Prosthetics for Children
Children may lose a body part due to a disease or illness, or because of a congenital disorder. Upper and lower limb reduction defects may cause part of a limb or the entire limb failing to form completely during pregnancy. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 1 in every 1,900 babies in the U.S. is born with a limb reduction defect.
For children, a prosthesis can help the child perform daily functions, including self-care. Many children have emotional or social issues because of the physical appearance of a limb defect or prosthesis. Rehabilitation and therapy with a prosthesis can help the child adapt to everyday activities without the use of a body part.
Prosthetics is generally encouraged for children as early as possible to encourage the use of a prosthesis. As children grow, they may also seek specific prosthetic attachments to engage in sports and activities like riding a bike, holding a baseball bat, or for swimming. As children get older, myoelectric prosthetics or multi-articulating prosthetics may provide higher levels of function and independence.
Prosthetics After Amputation
Many types of accident injuries can leave the injury victim without a limb or body part. After loss of a body part caused by an accident, the injury victim may be able to replace part of the form or function with a prosthesis. Some of the types of accidents that could lead to amputation or loss of a body part include:
- Car accident
- Gunshot wound
- Industrial accident
- Construction accident
- Burn injury
- Sporting injury
Medical conditions or diseases may also lead to loss of a body part and require a prosthesis. This includes degenerative conditions, cancer, infection, peripheral vascular disease, or osteomyelitis. Depending on the condition, early treatment may preserve the limb function without the need for amputation. Delayed diagnosis, delayed treatment, or improper treatment may cause sufficient damage that amputation is the only remaining option.
After an amputation or loss of a limb, rehabilitation (including physical therapy and occupational therapy) is focused on helping the individual reach and maintain the highest level of function and independence. Rehabilitation may also include family education and family support, and maintain a high quality of emotional and social quality of life. Other treatments may also include nutritional counseling, vocational counseling, and emotional support.
Many individuals with a prosthesis require pain management. Pain can occur with surgery and during recovery. Pressure sores, overuse of the prosthesis, or infection may also cause pain and require treatment and monitoring. Some patients have phantom limb pain, where they feel pain if they perceive the amputated part of the body.
Prosthetics and Wheelchairs
People with a lower extremity prosthesis, including a foot or leg amputation, may use a prosthesis with or without a wheelchair or mobile device. Some amputees can only use a prosthesis for a short period of time and may resort to using a wheelchair when they cannot walk or are having a prosthesis repaired.
Many patients who lose a limb because of a vascular problem may end up having a further amputation or having the other limb amputated as well. For patients who are not able to walk or stand with a prosthesis, a wheelchair may be the only alternative to get around and stay mobile.
Cost of a Prosthesis
The cost of a prosthesis has a broad range depending on the type of prosthesis, function of the prosthesis, and how often a prosthesis needs to be replaced. A prosthetic leg can cost from $5,000 to $50,000. New technology prosthetics may cost $100,000 or more.
If a prosthesis is required because of an injury accident or after a medical error, a personal injury lawsuit can help the individual recover money damages to pay for the cost of the prosthesis, as well as medical treatment, future medical care, loss of income, loss of earning potential, and pain and suffering.
Future Developments with Prosthetics
There are continuing developments in prosthetic design and technology. New materials have made prosthetics lighter and more comfortable for long-term use and wear. 3D printing has allowed prosthetics to fit perfectly and conform to the user’s body. A lot of the new technology for prosthetics has focused on controlling a prosthesis with the user’s muscles or brain activity.
Electrodes implanted in the brain of an amputee allows for brain-controlled movement and feedback. Some users are even able to experience a sensation of touch through interacting with the prosthesis. Using regenerative peripheral nerve interface may allow users to pick up objects or manipulate the prosthesis based on their own muscle movement.
Amputation Injury Lawyers
Prosthetics can help restore some function after losing a limb. When loss of body function was caused by a traumatic injury or medical malpractice, the injury victim should be compensated for their loss.
At Gilman & Bedigian, we will use our knowledge, experience, and dedication to fight for you to get the compensation you and your family deserve. Our aggressive trial attorneys have helped our clients recover millions of dollars in compensation related to injury and medical malpractice. Contact us online or call our law office at (800) 529-6162 for a free consultation.