New Study Shows More Expensive Equipment Cuts Overall Medical Costs

August 04, 2017 07:27 PM

(ABC 6 News) - Living life as an amputee can be mentally and physically taxing, not to mention expensive.

However, now recent technology is changing the lives of above the knee amputees while keeping medical costs down.


"You get up in the morning and you put your leg on, every morning," above the knee amputee Mike Melchert said. 

Right after retiring from the navy, Melchert struggled with internal Staph infections and Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) in his left leg, and, in January 2014, became a below the knee amputee.

That was until doctors discovered gangrene on his tibia. In February 2016, surgeons went back in and amputated his leg above the knee.

"You get gangrene in your system, there's no option, you have to get rid of it, and in order to get rid of the gangrene was to amputate above the knee," Melchert said.  

For 14 months Melchert used prosthetic leg with a mechanical knee that caused him a lot of problems and a lot of money.

"I fell probably five or six times, the knee broke twice, I just felt like it didn't fit me," Melchert said.

That was when Melchert did some research and came to Limb Lab and get fitted for a new prosthetic, and receive a newer microprocessor knee.

"The data shows that above knee amputees about two-thirds of them will fall over a month," Mayo Clinic doctor and director of the Biomechanics Motion Analysis Lab Kenton Kaufman said.      

Kaufman studied different options for above the knee amputees. He weighed the $26,000 mechanical knee against the $56,000 microprocessor knee.

He said the higher priced of the two is a better investment when you factor in the increased likelihood of hospital bills for falls, and replacements cost that come with the cheaper one.

“The knee senses the demand that's being placed on it and then the computer adjusts how the stiffness of the knee to match the environment," Kaufman said. 

"[It’s] communicating with the foot a thousand times per second saying 'is this person walking up the stairs, or are they falling?’ and it decides and makes the knee inherently safe," Limb Lab prosthetist Brandon Sampson said.  

Melchert practiced for a few days with the newer knee at Limb Lab, and is excited to get back to living life the way he wants.

"It's me now," Melchert said.

Kaufman said he's currently doing another study of microprocessor knees with Hanger Clinic in Rochester, to see if they make patients more active, and help them maintain a healthy lifestyle.


Elise Romas

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