In the United States, there are an estimated two million people who are living with limb loss.
Approximately 45 percent of these victims lost their limbs because of trauma, such as auto or workplace accidents. In recent years, our Costa Mesa auto accident attorneys have observed how advances in the field of prosthetics have made it possible for many accident victims to duplicate the movements of healthy limbs.
While prosthetic limbs used to have significant limitations, such as limited mobility and responsiveness and a high failure rate, today’s prosthetic limbs provide more options for amputees than at any time in the past. Many of the advanced prosthetics are made possible by robotics technology, which makes it possible for the artificial limbs to duplicate the movement of human limbs. The advanced prosthetics include powered joints and some can be controlled by thought.
New developments in the field of prosthetics has made it possible for amputees to climb stairs; traverse on uneven ground and do many other tasks they were unable to do with older prosthetic options. The joints that more closely mimic the body’s natural movement also reduce the risk of falling and stress on the body.
Unfortunately, the advanced prosthetics can come at a significant cost, sometimes exceeding $100,000. They must also be fitted properly to the patient in order to be optimally functional and to avoid further injury.
Due to the costs of the limbs, as well as the costs of a top-notch medical team to ensure optimal function, it is important for auto accident victims who lose limbs to obtain a competent attorney in order to recover full compensation for their injuries so they can afford the most advanced medical treatment.
The loss of an upper limb can now result in the use of a prosthetic called a Myoelectric arm. Myoelectric arms pick up amplified nerve impulses, which control a motor that makes movement possible. The fact that Myoelectric arms work on nerve impulses makes it possible for a person who has lost his arm to move his new prosthetic limb just by thought.
Because individual parts of the Myoelectric arm have their own powered joints, it is also possible to achieve motions that are very similar to those made with a natural arm. For example, a person with a Myoelectric arm can bend and straighten the elbow, rotate the wrist and thumb, and move each of the fingers individually. This allows for the amputee to perform complex grips.
Robotic prosthesis also allow for advanced functionality of lower-limb implants. Researchers at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago have created a neural interface allowing for a powered leg replacement to be controlled by thought. Independent powered knee and ankle joints also improve mobility.
Robotic artificial legs are a step forward from passive artificial legs because the robotic legs have the capacity to move independently and can move out of sync with the movement of its users. The control system must be much more advanced since it needs to recognize the user’s intent to change activities, such as switching from walking on a flat surface to climbing up the stairs.
A variety of systems including control sensors that detect a user’s intent from her body language, as well as electromyography interfaces, have been developed to make it possible for the control system to coordinate the actions of the prosthesis with the body and switch activities as needed.
Technologies that Make Advancements Possible
While the specifics of the changes to prosthetic limbs vary depending upon the body part being replaced, some new developments in the field of technology have been instrumental in helping facilitate the dramatic improvements in prosthetics.
Experts at Vanderbilt indicate that the key technological advances that have changed the prosthetic limb market include:
- Lithium ion batteries, which are able to store a greater amount of electricity.
- Powerful electric motors that are brushless and that have rare-Earth magnets.
- Semiconductor chips with miniature sensors, including accelerometers and gyroscopes
- Computer chips that require very little power
With technology advancing so rapidly, the options for replacement limbs should continue to improve. Auto accident attorneys in Costa Mesa and throughout California can help crash victims to recover compensation for bills and losses to ensure that they are able to afford the latest in artificial limb technology.
For more information on the personal injury claims process after a car accident, or to discuss a specific case with a Costa Mesa auto accident attorney, feel free to call 888-834-5055 or contact our office online.