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  • Prostheses Not Meeting Needs of Farmers and Ranchers

    Artificial hands, arms, legs, and feet, and other prostheses used by agricultural workers with a major limb amputation are not durable, affordable, or adaptable enough for their lifestyles, says a Medical News Today   article based on a study published online in Disability and Rehabilitation: Assistive Technology.

    Researchers conducted interviews with 40 American farmers and ranchers with amputations to gather information about how current and past prostheses were used, prosthetic failures, and their ability to complete farm tasks while using a prosthesis. They also interviewed 26 prosthetists who provide services to farmers and ranchers.

    The study found that:

    • Farmers' prostheses seem to deteriorate faster and fail more frequently than those of nonfarmers with amputations.
    • Farmers reported many falls and secondary injuries due to use of their prosthesis.
    • Farmers make additional changes in routines, farm equipment, and in attitude to successfully return to farming after an amputation.
    • In addition to inadequate medical insurance coverage for devices, some farmers in rural areas have to travel great distances to get to a prosthetist's clinic, which also adds to costs.
    • Prosthetists are not typically trained about the needs and lifestyles of farmers and ranchers and may prescribe inappropriate prosthetic choices. However, some prosthetists reported that farmers had unrealistic expectations of their prosthesis.

    The study is part of a larger research project at the Northwestern University Prosthetics-Orthotics Center that aims to design educational materials tailored to the specific needs of farmers and ranchers with amputations and work with prosthesis manufacturers to develop and reengineer more robust products and components. Results of this ongoing research could benefit people with amputations who work in other physically demanding professions such as the military, construction, forestry, commercial fishing, mining, and manufacturing, the article says.

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