Survey Provides Insight on Areas of Prosthetics, Orthotics That Need Additional Research

While the amount and appropriateness of research focused on prosthetics and orthotics has improved over the last 5 years, a recent State of the Science Meeting survey showed there is still room for additional research in certain areas.

“The purpose of the survey was to investigate the opinions of the orthotics and prosthetics community — including consumers, educators, engineers, family members or personal companions of consumers, orthotists, pedorthotists, physicians, prosthetic/orthotic residents and students, prosthetists, researchers, therapists, etc. — regarding the direction that research in the field of orthotics and prosthetics should take over the next 5 to 10 years,” Stefania Fatone PhD, BPO(Hons), research associate professor of the Northwestern University Prosthetics-Orthotics Center (NUPOC) at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, told O&P Business News.

2012 and 2006 comparisons

Before NUPOC held its State of the Science meeting in February 2006, 224 members of the broader prosthetics and orthotics community participated in an online survey. The online survey was distributed again in early 2012 and 377 members of the orthotics and prosthetics community responded.

Comparing the two surveys, researchers found that respondents thought prosthetic and orthotic research remained important (98.2% in 2006 and 93.4% in 2012). The surveys also showed that the amount and appropriateness of research focused on prosthetics and orthotics has improved during the last 5 years. In 2006, 79.9% of respondents believed that the amount of prosthetics and orthotics research was lacking vs. 62.1% of respondents in 2012. Similarly, 61.2% of respondents in 2006 believed the emphasis of prosthetics and orthotics research was lacking, whereas only 45% of respondents believed this in 2012.

Although researchers found an increase in respondents who had not participated in or conducted research, the 2012 survey showed an improved perception about the availability of research funding with 53.7% of respondents believing that insufficient funding prevented prosthetic and orthotic research vs. 74.6% in 2006.

Overall, the surveys showed that outcome measures were identified as the most important category needing future research for both prosthetics and orthotics. Ankle-foot orthoses and fabrication/materials were other top orthotics research categories in the 2012 and 2006 surveys while socket/interface and control of the prosthesis were top prosthetics research categories.

“Analyzing and comparing the results of the two surveys provides insight into changes in the perception of prosthetics and orthotics research that may have occurred during the intervening years,” the researchers wrote. “Ideally, the results of these surveys will help generate discussion and formulate recommendations for ongoing discourse regarding clinically relevant areas of research in prosthetics and orthotics.”

State of the Science meeting

As part of the funding requirements for NUPOC, every fifth year the group holds a State of the Science meeting for O&P. However, since the last meeting was held in 2006, Fatone said the committee is having trouble finding a new direction to take for the meeting that wouldn’t be repetitive, since the 2012 survey showed that not much has changed.

“When we did the last State of the Science conference in 2006, we framed it as clinically relevant research, which is a different spin than the one we did in 2002 where we looked at what researchers thought we should be doing in terms of research,” she said. “In my opinion, the problem is that every 5 years is a little too soon to be reassessing the state of the science in O&P because things just don’t change quickly enough.

“We’re still trying to figure out how to hold a State of the Science conference that doesn’t reiterate old news,” Fatone said. So doing a traditional State of the Science conference where we ask people what research we have and where we should be focusing isn’t going to elicit new information. We’re just looking at a way to make this a useful exercise because we feel that the State of the Science pre-meeting survey has suggested that there’s not a lot of change in the focus of where research should be going.”

For more information:
Schweitzer J, Fatone S. The 2012 and 2006 NUPOC state of the science survey results. Capabilities. 2012;20:1-2.

Disclosure: This project was funded by the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research of the US Department of Education.

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