Prosthetic Limb – Form Meets Function

Since the release of The Kingsman: The Secret Service many people are curious, if not a little enamored by “Gazelle, the world’s deadliest sidekick,” who some have called “The coolest movie villain of the year, so far.”

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Of course this is a movie and Gazelle is a fictional character, but so many of our young men and women come back from Iraq and Afghanistan in need of a prosthetic limb to resume a normal life. Realistically, 99 percent of us would never need any of the James Bond-esque additions to Gazelle’s prosthetics, but the great action scenes and the unequaled athleticism of an individual with prosthetic devices leaves some of us wondering: what are the real capabilities of these devices?

Prosthetic Limb Capabilities Interview

The experts at Prosthetic Orthotic Solutions International (POSI), weigh in with answers to these and other questions in this June 17th interview.

Question: Besides the Veterans Administration, where would someone go for advice and counseling regarding a prosthetic limb?

Kevin Towers: We provide on-site counseling to a patient when they are in the hospital or in a rehab facility, as well as counseling in our office. Additionally, there are many state sponsored rehabilitation and counseling programs. There is a wide variety of services available through the Affordable Care Act (ACA), support group websites, and peer-to-peer.

Question: Could you tell us what is available to the public? How expensive are prosthetic limb devices?

Kevin Towers: All prosthetic limb, prosthetic components, techniques, and suspensions are available to the public. Medicare is typically the standard that insurances base their payment policies on. Depending on your insurance or funding sources, choices can be limited. However, they can pick and choose what they want to follow as far as guidance and coverage. There are some beta testing opportunities to experience new technologies as they are being developed. As products publicly become available they are typically covered by some private workman’s comp or networks. However, the public usually will be able to use these prosthetic limb products once they get code assignments by Medicare.

Question: Are prosthetics affordable to the average person?

Kevin Towers: The prices can vary greatly depending on the patient’s amputation and functional level, anywhere from $15-20,000 for a Trans-tibial Prosthesis (below the knee) to $40-50,000 for microprocessors (provides multi‑directional movement). Depending on the services, a prosthetic limb can cost as much as $150,000. However, even without adequate insurance, there are many funding sources such as state services, gratis work, and some personal sponsors. We quite often get involved in helping our patients find alternative funding sources and assist with insurance forms and authorization.

Question: What are the latest developments in prosthetic limb devices?

Kevin Towers: There are many developments ongoing, which you can read about on the technology page of our website, From our perspective, manufacturers develop most of what we use, with the exception of the sockets. That is the area where we spend the most time and effort for our clients.

Question: Could you tell us how the 3D Printing Technology is used?

Kevin Barnes: Although the area of 3D printed prosthetics is rapidly maturing, we do not use it yet, per se. As Kevin Towers mentioned, the manufacturer pre-packages most of what we use. Our focus is the socket. With that being said, 3D printing is being used in the area of covers for feet, legs, and arms and activity-specific functions.

Question: What are the specific functions of the Genium Knee and how is different from other devices?

Ed Wisniewski: The main difference between the Genium Knee and other microprocessor knee units is the Genium looks at more data parameters then other prosthetic limb knees. It makes more decisions on behalf of the patient based on more information, which ultimately aids them in their Activities for Daily Living (ADL). Additionally, the Genium Microprocessor Knee literally takes the thinking out of leg actions and makes climbing stairs a natural activity. It is no longer necessary to swing the leg out and up to climb stairs. It’s really amazing. prosthetic limb

Question: What is special about the BiOM Foot?

Kevin Towers: The BiOM Foot is unique because it was the first prosthetic limb foot on the market that can actually power the amputee using motorized plantarflexion that occurs during the gait cycle at a specific time. It is a replacement for the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles.

Question: Are you working on anything that replicates the BiOM foot for elbow and wrist actions, or does such a device already exist?

Kevin Barnes: Deka and Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency DARPA have some very sophisticated designs that have powered upper prosthetic limb mechanisms similar to the BiOM technology. Some of this technology has already trickled down as pattern recognition systems and Radio-frequency Identification RFID, which is available now in upper limb prosthetics.

Question: How is a prosthetic limb attached and do their users wear them all the time? What about showering? Are these devices waterproof?

Kevin Towers: There are many different suspension methods utilized to attach a prosthetic limb to the amputee. There are suction, vacuum, pin, lanyard, anatomical or strap systems. However, socket interface has advanced dramatically utilizing suction and vacuum suspension increasing the users’ abilities to wear the prosthetics comfortably. It largely depends on the electronics involved with the device whether or not it is waterproof. Many trans-tibial devices are waterproof. The life expectancy of most devices is three to five years, whereas the socket life expectancy is only 12-18 months. Most insurance companies know this and allow for timely fittings and replacements, but do not typically pay for a second device for showering.

Question: Why would a patient choose POSI?

Kevin Towers: I’ll let our clients/patients answer that question for you. Many have expressed feelings of being “lost in the shuffle,” with the many challenges of unsuccessful fittings or prosthetics with awkward fittings. Many clinics focus more on money than patient satisfaction, unlike POSI. We put our patients first. Take a look at our Featured Patients of POSI page on our site to see how how mission to put patients first pays off.

Prosthetic Orthotic Solutions International (POSI)