How much are prosthetic arms?
Reading about prosthetic arms, it's easy to be wowed by the results of bionics research. The forefront of scientific innovation in the prosthetics industry is an exciting place to be, with constant breakthroughs in the sector. While the forefront of science is impressive, the cost of advanced prosthetics has ballooned over recent years. So, how much are prosthetic arms, and are they made affordable to everyday people?
The bionics that tend to grab headlines are upper limb prostheses with unparalleled control and dexterity, with neural feedback and biological movement. A prosthetic hand with multiple grip patterns, or even sometimes individual finger articulation, certainly grabs the imagination. Some can even send feedback to users, giving them a sense of touch in the bionic limb.
Innovation in this field is certainly impressive and exciting, but it still comes with numerous drawbacks. Many of these devices work by connecting a sensor to a nerve in the residual limb, or sometimes direct to the brain, to measure electrical signals made when the user goes to move their arm. This requires surgery, sometimes risky open brain operations, with no guarantee that this experiment will lead to a usable product at the end of it.
On top of the potential cost of hospital health care after a procedure like this, there is the cost of the devices themselves to consider.
So how much are prosthetic arms, really?
Let's get down to brass tacks. A multi-grip myoelectric prosthesis costs between £25,000 and £80,000. More advanced models, like the 'true bionics' discussed above, can cost even more. This simply isn't affordable for the vast majority of people. This leads many to rely on the support of fundraising campaigns or (if they're in the US) health insurance plans, though both of these are unreliable and struggle to cover the full cost.
Prosthetics aren't one-time purchases, either. Components wear down with regular use, particularly in adult models, and can be expensive to replace. Children, meanwhile, outgrow their prosthetics regularly. The result in either case is the requirement to buy a new prosthetic every few years, at an exorbitant price.
This leads to many amputees and people with limb difference to simply go without a prosthetic device altogether, which for many isn't their own choice. There are many medical benefits associated with wearing a prosthetic. Many of these are related to muscle development and health, as well as the more conventionally understood aid in utility. If you’d like to learn more, this article covers this in more depth. These devices ought to be available to anyone who needs them, but in many parts of the world this isn't the case.