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Life-changing prosthetic devices to 'remain unattainable' long term

10 June, 2015

"The implications of lost sensation and tactile feedback resulting from amputation are issues that have yet to be widely addressed by prosthetic manufacturers," says Jennifer Ryan, GlobalData's Analyst covering Medical Devices.

"Device advancements have instead previously focused on restoring natural limb motion and functionality. While these mechanical processes are important to prosthesis adoption and patient utilization, manufacturers and researchers often overlook the difficulty experienced with using the devices. Patients must rely on visual cues, rather than intuitive sensation, to control their prostheses in space," she says.

"Using a technique similar to that explored in targeted muscle and sensory re-innervation, the new prosthetic foot, developed by scientists in Austria, aims to address this problem head-on. The product is fitted with sensors to move residual nerves in the leg stump to the surface of the skin and stimulate them with each action of the foot.

"Additionally, the prosthetic foot capitalises on the concept that phantom pain, which plagues many amputees as the remaining nerves in their stump struggle to adjust to an absent limb, is decreased through the stimulation of these residual nerves.

"However, while this novel technology accurately addresses the unmet needs in prosthetic devices, it will be a long time before the average amputee can access it.

"As novel prosthetic devices and technologies are brought to market, patient adoption and utilization patterns are hindered by reimbursement limitations. Low prosthetic reimbursement rates globally, including annual and even lifetime reimbursement caps, coupled with the staggering cost of new innovations, make it impossible for most amputees to access the latest devices. Innovative products are essentially priced out of the market, severely limiting the amount of life-changing technology accessible to patients.

"Until health insurers recognize the importance of prosthetic technology to patients and increase reimbursement for these products, the Austrian prosthetic foot, along with similar products, will likely remain unattainable in the long term."

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