A prosthetic leg can help those with leg amputations move around more easily. They mimic the movement, function, and sometimes appearance of a real leg. If you’re planning a lower limb amputation or have recently had one, you might wonder what the average cost of a prosthetic leg is and what factors affect the pricing.
What Should You Ask Your Doctor?
Every person is unique when it comes to amputation. Not everyone is a good candidate to receive a prosthetic leg, so it’s important to determine if you are. Some questions you might want to ask your doctor before you purchase a prosthetic leg may include the following:
- Is your other leg healthy?
- How much pain are you in?
- What is the range of motion on the residual limb?
- How active were you before the amputation?
- What are your mobility goals?
Other factors that can affect your decision are the type of amputation as well as the reason behind the amputation. It’s generally easier to use a below-the-knee prosthetic compared to an above-the-knee one. If the knee joint is still intact, the prosthetic leg takes less effort to move and gives you more flexibility. The reason you needed the amputation is also important as it may impact the health of the residual limb.
What Types of Prosthetic Legs Are Available?
Prosthetic devices vary in complexity based on the functions needed of the legs and feet. Most prosthetics are constructed out of carbon fiber or fiberglass, so they can bend easily under the patient’s weight and spring back once the patient lifts the foot. This process is called dynamic response and allows you to move forward.
Thanks to advances in technology, more than 200 prosthetic feet and 75 different prosthetic knees are available. These devices can range from basic legs that let you walk across flat surfaces to computerized ones that allow you to run marathons or participate in other types of adventure sports.
Prosthetic devices that have a foot-and-ankle mechanism may include the following:
- Simple model: This has a fixed foot and ankle position. It might also have one pivot point, which allows for up-and-down movement.
- Complex model: This provides a multi-axle movement for walking on uneven ground.
- High-performance model: This lets you participate in higher-intensity activities such as walking, jumping, or running.
Prosthetic devices that have a knee mechanism may include the following:
- Simple mechanism: This option can be locked for standing and walking, and then you can unlock it for sitting.
- Complex mechanism: This choice is weight-activated and locks when there’s weight on the leg. It unlocks when the weight is removed, so the leg swings forward when walking.
- Computer-controlled hydraulic mechanism: This type has sensors that monitor movement so you receive the most natural gait.
Average Cost of a Prosthetic Leg
According to a study conducted by the American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, more than 3,500 people in the United States undergo a transfemoral, or above-the-knee, amputation. Of these 18,500 new amputee patients each year, only 25% to 30% of them receive a prosthetic leg and knee, mainly due to the cost.
The costs for a prosthetic leg vary, but all types are typically covered by health insurance. The particular leg that you need depends upon your amputation level, needs, and condition. For instance, some insurance companies state that computer-controlled prosthetic legs would be covered if you have the physical strength and demonstrate the need to move over long distances and over difficult terrain. If you are more housebound, the insurance company might cover a prosthetic leg that simply helps you move around the house.
The cost for a prosthetic leg is usually less than $10,000 for a basic leg and upwards of $70,000 or more for a computerized leg that you control via muscle movement. That cost is just for one leg, so if you want another one to use for other purposes, you will likely need to pay for the additional prosthetic. Certain insurance companies might only pay for the functional leg if it deems the athletic leg isn’t necessary.
Keep in mind that over your lifetime, you might need to replace the prosthetic leg several times. According to the Amputee Coalition, depending on your age, growth, and activity level, your prosthesis can last from several months to several years. The majority of amputees have a single prosthesis for their first year, but then due to changes in physique, they might need another prosthetic.
If you’re in the early stages after the loss of your limb, your residual limb might shrink, necessitating socket changes, new liners, or even a different prosthetic. Activity level changes can also create the need for a prosthetic change or repairs. You also need to purchase liners, sleeves, and socks that go between the prosthetic and your appendage.
What Factors Affect the Price?
Because each prosthetic leg must be custom fit for every patient, the costs can add up. These costs depend on several factors, and only a few of them are dependent upon the recipient. One of the major factors is the type of amputation the recipient underwent because the below-the-knee prosthetic leg cost is typically less than one that requires the addition of a knee joint. An above-knee prosthesis needs different mechanisms to create a bending knee.
The other deciding factor is the type of device you’re looking for. If you want a basic, below-the-knee prosthetic, the average cost is around $3,000 to $10,000. A more flexible, below-the-knee prosthetic costs a little bit more, while one with special hydraulic and mechanical assistance ranges between $20,000 and $40,000. The computerized leg is the priciest option.
Contact Scheck & Siress
If you’re interested in learning more about the prosthetic leg process or want to meet with someone who has gone through the prosthetic process, reach out to Scheck & Siress. We’ve been in business for more than 60 years and have more than 50 American Board Certified practitioners on staff. With over 18 locations scattered across Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin, we’re able to work with numerous patients within the Midwest.