Prosthetic limbs inadequate for farmer, rancher use

Farmers and ranchers require more durable, affordable and adaptable prosthetics to facilitate them in their work, according to a recent study published in Disability and Rehabilitation: Assistive Technology.

Craig Heckathorne, MSc, research engineer at Northwestern University Prosthetics-Orthotics Center, and colleagues interviewed 40 farmers with upper- or lower-limb amputations and 26 prosthetists. They explored issues such as current and past prostheses used, prosthetic failures and ability to complete farm tasks using their prostheses.

Durability/utility, environment, adaptation, cost and education of farmers and prosthetists were concerns related to prostheses. Farmers and ranchers reported making modifications to prostheses, farm equipment and daily routines so they could return to their vocation. Farmers and ranchers also experienced falls and secondary injuries caused by their prostheses; researchers suggested these safety problems may be related to durability. Researchers found that harsh weather caused faster deterioration of prostheses, which were very expensive for many farmers and ranchers who did not have health insurance or receive worker’s compensation due to owning a small business.

“Our preliminary findings provide the framework for further and more specific information fathering from a larger and more representative cohort of subjects,” the researchers concluded. “The results of this and future studies can be used to guide the design of new devices and recommend best prosthetic practices targeted specifically to the needs of farmers and ranchers with amputations and those in other physically demanding professions.”

For more information:

Waldera KE. Assessing the prosthetic needs of farmers and ranchers with amputations. Disabil Rehabil Assist Technol. July 10, 2012. [Epub ahead of print]

Disclosure: Heckathorne has no relevant financial disclosures.

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