New review highlights the lack of structured research in effectiveness of orthotics and prosthetics

"According to current statistics, it has been estimated that approximately 1.5% of the world’s population needs some sort of assistive technology. However, our review found that the current evidence does not provide sufficient data on the effectiveness and cost effectiveness of these interventions."

Dr Aoife Healy, Senior Research Officer

Current scientific and clinical literature does not provide sufficient evidence on the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of prosthetic and orthotic interventions, a review has concluded.

A Staffordshire University research team, led by Professor Nachiappan Chockalingam, carried out a critical evaluation of the current scientific evidence from randomised control trials to assist healthcare professionals in prescribing assistive technology.

Dr Aoife Healy, who led the review which is detailed in the journal Plosone, explained: "Assistive products and technology allows people with special needs to live a healthy, productive and dignified life. According to current statistics, it has been estimated that approximately 1.5% of the world's population needs some sort of assistive technology.

"However, our review found that the current evidence does not provide sufficient data on the effectiveness and cost effectiveness of these interventions and the review has highlighted the need for standardised outcome measures which will make the results relevant and help build clear evidence."

The review, funded by the International Society for Prosthetics and Orthotics (ISPO) and supported by an USAID program to inform the World Health Organisation(WHO) Standards for Prosthetics and Orthotics Service Provision, looked at a total of 342 randomised controlled trials of prosthetics and orthotics.

Professor Chockalingam added: "Most of the current high quality research originates from a handful of countries focussing only on a few medical conditions which might have less relevance to the wider world.

"Change needs to happen to make assistive technology available to all global citizens who need it. WHO's program Global Cooperation on Assistive Technology (GATE) is driving this change and a Priority Assistive Device List has already been launched. Earlier this year, the Executive Board of the WHO passed a ground-breaking resolution to improve access to assistive technology."

The Clinical Biomechanics group at Staffordshire University, along with their academic and industrial collaborators, are set to develop new products and techniques for effective clinical interventions for people with special health conditions.

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