Effects of Technology in Prosthetic Limbs for Amputee Patients

effects of technology

Introduction

Technology has remarkably impacted different aspects of human life in numerous ways. In the field of medicine, technology has been utilized to save lives and improve the quality of care received by patients in addition to contributing to improved and sustainable healthcare. From the 1800s, both biomedical scientists and doctors have worked diligently to develop instruments meant to help in examination of the human body with a view to derive a better understanding of it (Jacob, John, Smart, Bannister & Cadd 12). With such technology, the specialists can understand the difference between how healthy and sick bodies function. The field of medicine has always depended on technology which helps people live healthier and more productive lives. More advanced inventions have been made in the field in the 20th century (Alexandria, 1995). Complex and computerized machines have been developed to help in diagnosing medical conditions and helping the body to perform its functions (Alexandria, 1995). Prosthetics is one of such inventions meant to help the amputees leave normal lives. Current paper will investigate how technology has improved the field of medicine, especially in the area of prosthetic limbs, improving the lives of the amputee patients. In addition, the paper will provide a discussion of negative aspects associated with such technology. Moreover, current paper is aimed at examining the way in which technology has improved prosthesis and the effects it has on the amputee patients. It will highlight how prosthesis has made it possible for the patients to recover and live their lives productively. Advantages and disadvantages that may be associated with such process will be also discussed.

There are various circumstances which may cause a limb amputation. When it occurs, such people undergo a series of changes with regard to their emotional and financial lifestyles. One of the most important things that the amputees require for their lives to be easier is a prosthetic device, which can serve them for the rest of their lives. Prosthesis basically refers to a kind of artificial extension that is used on the amputees to replace the body part that has been amputated (Braddom, Randall & Buschbacher 33). Prosthesis refers to biomechatronics, which is a part of science that deals with combining specially designed mechanical devices with various parts of the human body. Examples include the skeleton, nervous system and the human muscles among others (Morimoto 61). It is aimed at improving the ability of motor control that has been affected due to different reasons, such as disease, trauma or even some kinds of defects. Patients in need of prosthesis have benefitted much from the various treatment options made possible by advancement in technology.

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Types of Artificial Limbs

An artificial limb refers to a form of prosthesis, which enables a missing limb to be substituted with a mechanical device (Spires, Brian & Alicia, 2014). Examples of the limbs normally replaced include the arms and legs. There are various factors that influence the kind of artificial limbs that can be used in the replacement of the missing body part. They include the location of the particular missing part and the complexity of amputation.

According to statistics, people aged 65 and above constitute the highest number requiring amputation in the United States (Grimmer, Martin, & Seyfarth 40). In addition, most of the diseases that lead to amputation increase at a very fast rate among people in a given group. Over 1.6 million people suffer from one of forms of limb loss and it does not include fingers and toes: the number of people undergoing amputations annually surpasses 185,000 (Grimmer, Martin, & Seyfarth 55). Diabetes and peripheral vascular disease are among the leading causes of amputations among people above 50 years old (Braddom, Randall & Buschbacher 99). Artificial limbs exist in four different forms.

Transradial Prosthesis

It is a form of artificial limb used on people who have lost an arm below the elbow (Spires, Brian &Alicia 61). There are two kinds of prosthetics that can be used to replace the missing arm. The first one is the cable operated limbs. In this case, a cable and a harness are attached to the opposite shoulder of the arm that has been destroyed. Myoelectric arms, on the other hand, make it possible for the artificial hand to either close or open when there is a movement of muscles detected in the upper arm. The artificial arm senses such movements through electrodes.

Transhumeral Prosthesis

It is a form of artificial limb designed for the people who have lost an arm above the elbow (Spires, Brian &Alicia 56). The amputees with such kind of problem face similar difficulties to the transfemoral amputees because similar challenges arise from moving the elbow. It causes some difficulties in using an artificial limb as it is difficult to develop a system that can produce the desired motion.

Transtibial Prosthesis

Given type of artificial limbs is designed for people who have lost a leg below the knee (Spires, Brian & Alicia 58). There are higher chances for someone with such challenge to recover their regular movements in approximately four weeks compared to someone who has suffered a transfemoral amputation. It is caused by the fact that with transtibial prosthesis one is able to preserve his/her knee making movements easier.

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Transfemoral Prosthesis

It is a form of artificial limbs meant for people who have lost a leg above the knee (Spires, Brian & Alicia 58). It is extremely difficult for transfemoral amputees to regain their normal movement. A transfemoral amputee requires approximately 80% more energy for walking compared to people with both legs (Spires, Brian & Alicia 60). It is occasioned by the complexities that arise when people try to move the part of the body connected to the knee. Advancement in technology has made it easier for transfemoral amputees to have better control over such kind of artificial limb due to the emergence of improved designs and computer microprocessors among others.

Benefits of Prosthetic Limbs

There have been outstanding innovative technological advancements that increased the rate of modernization of prosthetics leading to a great improvement in the field. There is a variety of treatment options meant for patients in need of prosthetic limbs as highlighted earlier. Such options have become possible due to the improvement of material science, mechanical, as well as electrical engineering, including computer programming leading to development of sophisticated prosthetic devices. Lighter, stronger and safer materials have been developed to substitute the older and heavier ones used in earlier prosthetic devices. It has led to development of new prosthetic products, which offer the amputee patients more comfort, convenience and safety. The fast growing demand among the amputee patients for restored mobility has led to the tremendous growth in the limb prosthetics market and it has made manufacturers consider various amputee aspects when manufacturing artificial limbs. Technology has made it possible to improve prosthesis treatments, completing it within a shorter period of time. It assists patients to resume their normal lives faster than it was before, thereby decreasing the duration of sufferings among such patients.

Research has been carried out by biomedical scientists and doctors in order to develop better ways of carrying out the prosthesis treatments. Technology has led to more effective treatments, which have increased the level of mobility for such patients, making it possible for them to lead more active lifestyles compared to the treatment received in earlier years. For many years, amputees could not participate in sports due to the kind of artificial limbs they were given. With advancing technology in the field of prosthetics limbs, many amputees are now able to participate in a variety of sports, such as athletics, tennis and skiing among others (Braddom, Randall & Buschbacher 76).

Due to technological development, prosthetic devices have been created, which can meet the specific needs of various amputee patients. It has enabled production of various types of artificial limbs, which is aimed at helping different patients according to the type and extent of damage their limbs have undergone. The case of one-shoe-fits-all approach is not always the best and the technology development has succeeded in eliminating it with regards to prosthesis treatment. Although different diseases, such as peripheral vascular disease and diabetes, have contributed to an increase in the number of amputations all over the world, war and accidents play a significant role in the process as well (Grimmer, Martin, & Seyfarth 39) .

Challenges Brought by Technological Advancements in Prosthetics

Although there are many benefits that amputee patients enjoy due to advancement in technology, there are some challenges that have been accompanied by such improvement. The United States has a very competitive prosthetics market for prosthetic devices, though, it is not dominated by large companies (Alexandria 20). There are various small companies that provide prosthetic services and are responsible for developing new technologies. The growth of the market over the years has led to an increase in the price of prosthetics; the payments for specialists involved in the manufacturing process have also increased. Such unfavorable conditions have made amputee consumers resort to the cheaper products, which are usually less effective. Some of cheap prosthetic products purchased by amputee patients do not correspond to the standards, which exposes their users to undesirable effects, such as injuries among others.

There are some types of brain-controlled prosthetics that have some disadvantages. In them, microprocessor is positioned inside of the prosthetic arm and such device works by sensing when the brain sends some electric signals to it. Such type of technology is not precise as sometimes it is difficult for the signals to be sensed by the prosthetic limb.

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Conclusion

The number of amputees who require prosthetic limbs and other services is continually growing. The estimates show that the figures increase by approximately 185, 000 patients annually: the current number in the Unites States is approximately 1.6 million (Spires, Brian & Alicia 91). Every year, 6,000 amputees suffer from upper extremity meaning they have lost their hands, arms or fingers (Spires, Brian & Alicia 91). The number of patients with amputations rises, especially due to the annual rise of the number of people with diabetes, who require amputation.

Technology has made the process of amputations and care for amputees better.  Additionally, many innovations in the limb prosthetics market have been aimed at making it easier and safer for amputees to regain movements of their ‘missing parts’. There are many amputees who have been able to restore their normal lives after receiving the artificial limbs they needed. Moreover, some of them were able to continue working and even participate in sport events. Some amputees have excelled in national, regional or event international sports due to the advancement in technology that has enabled production of very advanced and responsive devices. In addition, there are sports specifically created for amputees, who can lead normal lives due to the advancements in technology (Braddom, Randall & Buschbacher 61).

On the other hand, limb amputees constantly experience challenges even with the technological advancements. Some of the prosthetic products are not very effective, therefore, they do not provide appropriate help for the patients. Such devices are limited in the extent and angle of motion, as well as in their strength as compared to natural limbs. Additionally, they are expensive and not affordable to all amputees. Generally, the benefits that technology has caused in the field of prosthesis outweigh any disadvantages that may arise. As a result, prosthetic technology has greatly evolved in the twentieth century to attain products suitable for all ages, heights and other differences between amputees (Braddom, Randall & Buschbacher 56).

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