Prosthetic arms using pen
Travel Therapy September 4, 2013

By Ryan

OT’s Leading Role in Prosthetics

Posted by Ryan

A recent article appearing in OT Practice Magazine shines a bright light on the emerging technological advances in prosthetics and how OTs are shaping the field in a multitude of ways. Written by Andrew Waite, associate editor of OT Practice, the piece alternates between anecdotal patient experiences and the broader ways OTs are impacting the prosthetic industry through consultation, training, and objective data.  As new technologies come to the forefront, patients are suddenly able to choose from an assortment of options.  

This can be an intimidating experience, and often an OT who is already treating the patient through wound management becomes the best option for choosing the right prosthetic.  The OT figures out what devices can best be incorporated to bring functionality to a patient's desired and essential daily activities. It was interesting to read about the 2 avenues available in prosthetics: Biomechanical and Myoelectric devices.

Biomechanical devices have not changed much in the last 25 years other than improvements in weight and materials. These devices tie body movements to cables and sockets that can be guided by shoulder and toro movement. Myoelectric devices are battery-powered and work with the body’s electrical impulses and muscle contractions to bring movement. The technology in this area is rocketing at speeds that can be difficult to keep up with. The advances have in many ways been fueled by an investment by the Defense department research wing that looks for better care and solutions for our returning soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan.

The article compares the battery improvements to cell phones and their ability to become smaller while holding more data. It also talks about OTs staying current in these technologies and learning how to recommend the right device.  The manufacturers of these devices consult OTs for their ability to bring objective data and real-world experience in evidence-based treatments.  The article ends with a quote from Julie Klarich, the OT who treated Aaron Ralston of 127 Hours fame(climber who amputated his arm to escape being wedged in a cliff). Julie talked about how essential it is for OTs to stay current in the latest technologies and to trust their training as OTs. 

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