The main issue affecting all amputees is being able to function as normally as before, and to do so long term.
On the face of it, this might seem impossible. Easily replacing a limb is still in its scientific infancy and generally amputees are left with a poorly fitting prosthetic which can be very painful to use, difficult to fit and often falls off, especially where the residuum is short or hyper-sensitive.
Long term, there is equally no joy. Above knee amputees are likely to suffer with joint difficulties affecting hips and in particular with the early onset of lower back degenerative changes, causing increased pain and further limitation in movement. A large percentage of individuals find themselves relying on wheelchairs in later life, giving rise to an increased dependence on others, generally long after any civil claim has settled.
That is not to say that the science of prosthetics has stood still. Far from it and ironically, the large number of service personnel injured in global conflicts has led to increased investment in research. Remarkable steps have been taken with existing ideas, in particular under Professor al Muderis in Sydney, leading to viable alternatives and strides ahead in areas such as osseointegation.
Osseintergation is defined as ‘the direct structural and functional connection between living bone and the surface of a load-bearing artificial implant’. In other words, attach the prosthetic to the bone by way of a small metal implant that protrudes slightly from the residuum and to which the prosthetic is joined using an Allen key.
The advantages are obvious. The prosthetic remains in place, is attached and removed in a moment, and easily replaced with a swimming or running leg. From a litigation and compensation perspective, the benefits are as obvious as they are to the amputee, although they become less certain when considering the future.
For lawyers acting for injured parties, the future is filled with uncertainty. Assessing how an amputee is likely to cope in later life with the impact of old age and advancing years is far from easy but must be included in a claim for compensation.
In this respect any advance in prosthetics which places significantly less strain on the body must be an advantage in avoiding long term problems and the risk of increased dependency.
That is not to say that such benefits are a certainly nor that the value of such claims will decrease as a result. There is still likely to be a need for a degree of long term care and accommodation.
In addition, the amputee as a claimant, is entitled to receive the best on the market in an attempt to replicate the normality they had before. Despite advances, osseointergation will still give rise to ongoing costs, as indeed any long term provision of prosthetics, maintenance and replacement would.