Quality devices crucial for amputees — doctor

Prosthetics grant mobility and independence, says expert

In Summary

• In Kenya, only 22 per cent of amputees receive prosthetics, a significant gap in care

With the ageing population, the rise in non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and advancements in healthcare, the demand for prosthetic devices is expected to increase.

The World Health Organisation predicts that by 2040, the global diabetic population will reach 642 million, potentially leading to a rise in amputations.

In Kenya, amputations present a significant health challenge, often resulting in disability and financial hardships for those affected. A study at Kikuyu Hospital identified trauma, congenital defects, infections and tumors as the primary causes of limb amputations, with NCDs such as diabetes and peripheral arterial disease accounting for a substantial number of cases.

In lower-middle-income countries like Kenya, accidents and infections are more common reasons for amputations, while conditions related to non-communicable diseases are increasing, resulting in circulation issues and delayed wound healing that may require amputations.

These trends are similar across sub-Saharan Africa, with lower-limb amputations being more prevalent than upper-limb amputations. Understanding these patterns is crucial for implementing targeted strategies to prevent and manage amputations in the region.

Several risk factors and causes contribute to amputations, with men having a higher likelihood of amputation than women. Individuals with a history of smoking, foot ulcers or bone infections face elevated risks, and the presence of gangrene significantly increases the likelihood of amputation.

A global perspective reveals different patterns in amputation causes. In high-income countries, vascular diseases, especially diabetes-related complications, are common reasons for amputations.

In low- and middle-income countries like Kenya, trauma and infections play a more significant role. These differences underscore the impact of healthcare infrastructure, access to medical services and socioeconomic conditions on the occurrence of amputations worldwide.

Access to high-quality prosthetic care is crucial for amputees, enabling them to restore mobility and independence. In Kenya, only 22 per cent of amputees receive prosthetics, highlighting a significant gap in care.

Prothea Kenya is at the forefront, using 3D printing technology to transform prosthetic services. This innovative approach reduces production time and costs, while maintaining high-quality standards.

Comprehensive prosthetic care goes beyond functionality and involves a multidisciplinary approach. A collaborative team of medical professionals, therapists and coaches work together to address patients' holistic needs. This approach represents the future of prosthetic care, combining technology and interdisciplinary collaboration for optimal patient support.

Preventing amputations requires a coordinated effort to address underlying causes, such as blood sugar control and infection prevention. By implementing strategies like workplace safety measures and public health initiatives, we can reduce the need for amputations, preserving physical integrity and community well-being.

I call upon the Government of Kenya and stakeholders to prioritise the establishment of comprehensive prosthetic care centres. The impact of prosthetic devices on amputees is significant, requiring support and innovation in this crucial sector.

 Dr Nick Omollo is the co-founder of Prothea Kenya

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