Prosthetic knee type may determine cost of care for amputees

Prosthetic knee type may determine cost of care for amputees

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By Elizabeth Zimmermann Young – July 11, 2017

ROCHESTER, Minn. — In a new study published in Prosthetics and Orthotics International, Mayo Clinic researchers describe the direct medical costs of falls in adults with a transfemoral amputation. In this type of amputation, the leg is amputated above the knee. This work “provides a comparison for policymakers when evaluating the value of more expensive … technologies,” say the authors.

Every week in the U.S., more than 3,500 people have a transfemoral amputation. However, of the 185,000 new amputee patients each year, only 25-30 percent receive a prosthetic leg and knee.

Of those who receive a prosthetic leg and knee, the policies that govern insurance payments grant basic mechanical knees for most. Despite growing data that newer technology reduces falls and improves physical capabilities, only high-functioning patients (based on mobility and activity levels) are deemed eligible for a knee with microprocessor technology.

A team of Mayo Clinic researchers would like to change that.

“We want to help provide the best quality of life and prosthesis for each individual,” says Benjamin Mundell, Ph.D., the study’s lead author. Dr. Mundell, a trained health economist who is currently a medical student at Mayo Clinic School of Medicine, says, “It is important to look beyond the initial cost differences of a microprocessor knee compared to a mechanical knee and understand what downstream costs might be avoided with a better prosthesis.”

“Microprocessor knees are designed to help improve balance and reduce falls,” he says. “The fear of falling for those with mechanical knees likely reduces their overall physical activity and if they do fall and require hospitalization, the cost of care is almost as expensive as a microprocessor knee.”

 

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