Prosthetic Leg Costs, Types, and What You Need to Know

When it comes to prosthetic legs, you may have many questions, such as “How much does a prosthetic leg cost?” or “What are the different types of prosthetic legs available?”. Whether you’re new to the field of prosthetics or just curious, it’s natural to feel overwhelmed by the various options and considerations. In this guide, we’ll put your mind at ease by discussing the different types of prosthetic legs, their costs, and other essential information.

The Types of Prosthetic Legs

With all the different prosthetic leg options, the varieties can seem endless and difficult to navigate. However, most prosthetics can fit into one of the four main categories: transradial, transhumeral, transtibial, and transfemoral, but prosthetic legs, in particular, will be transtibial or transfemoral (the other two are regarding arm prosthetics).

Transtibial Prosthetic Legs

Transtibial prosthetic legs include any prosthetic legs below the knee. Those with a transtibial prosthetic leg can often regain movement faster than those with a transfemoral prosthetic leg, primarily because they have retained their knee joint, which makes movement easier.

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Transfemoral Prosthetic Legs

Transfemoral prosthetic legs encompass any prosthetics used to replace a leg above the knee. The transfemoral prosthetic leg has an extra joint (the knee joint) in comparison to transtibial prosthetic legs (which only have the foot/ankle joint). However, due to the complexity of knee movement, individuals with transfemoral prostheses often need to use considerably more energy to walk than someone without a prosthesis.

Advanced prosthetics include microprocessor units, hydraulics, carbon fiber frames, and mechanical linkages to provide more control to the user and make using the prosthetic leg easier.

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Prosthetic Leg Joint Varieties

The extent of a prosthetic leg needed varies from person to person, so prosthetic legs can differ significantly in their joint varieties. The two primary joint types in prosthetic legs are the foot/ankle joint and the knee joint.

The Foot/Ankle Joint

The extent of these joints can also vary, which is most commonly seen in regards to the foot/ankle mechanism. The simplest models keep the foot/ankle in a stationary position, so there is no movement. Other simple models may allow for some flexibility which helps in a smoother gait or walking pattern.  This flexibility is achieved through the material of the foot whether it be carbon fiber or fiberglass material.

However, prosthetics with more advanced mechanisms allow for multi-axial movement, which means the foot/ankle can move in multiple directions.  These multiaxial joint attempts to mimic our anatomical ankle motion allowing the foot to adjust on uneven terrain while maintaining the foot’s flat position on the ground.

A Microprocessor foot and ankle system is designed for low to moderately active amputees. The adaptive microprocessor unit allows the user to have greater foot clearance and automatic adjustments for uneven which contributes to safer ambulation.

The Knee Joint

The knee joint can also vary in complexity. Simple models use a manual lock mechanism which you lock when standing and walking but unlock to allow for sitting.

More complex knee joints utilize a weight-activated lock mechanism that locks when weight is on the leg and unlocks with its removal. Not only does this allow it to unlock when sitting, but it also means the knee joint unlocks when walking (and the weight is taken off that leg during the natural gait), which allows the knee to swing outward, aiding in a natural walking pattern.

Some knee joints may also contain hydraulic and pneumatic pistons to allow for even more controlled movements.  These knee units help the prosthetic need to adjust as an amputee varies their speed.  It allows the knee to “keep up” with the user as he/she walks faster or runs.

Microprocessor knee units are available and can be programmed to a user’s needs. The programming of the microprocessor knee enables the knee to automatically adapt to a patient’s activity. It is very useful for patients who are regularly having to climb stairs, navigate tight spaces when a traditional knee unit may give our or buckle on the patient, or constantly on their prosthesis, walk longer distances, or navigate uneven terrains.

How is a Prosthetic Leg Chosen?

Your doctor will consider various factors when choosing the ideal prosthesis for you. One of the most significant considerations is the amputation level, as that will determine if a transfemoral or transtibial prosthetic leg is needed. As well as if this is your first prosthesis or a replacement prosthesis. Your level of activity prior to your amputation will also help drive the type of prosthesis you will be prescribed, how easily you will learn how to use your prosthesis, and your goals for returning to your previous lifestyle are also driving factors when selecting a prosthesis. To better prepare yourself for this process, you can read our blog post on “What You Need to Know Before Being Fitted for A Prosthetic.

Other considerations include your general activity level prior to your amputation, as well as your occupation, hobbies, and sports, which will aid your practitioner in determining the best joint mechanisms for your lifestyle.

Prosthetic Leg Wearing Schedule

Before taking home the prosthetic leg, you will learn how to put it on and take it off, and you will also practice walking with it.

Once you take it home, your prosthetist will provide you with a wearing schedule that is important to follow, as it helps acclimate your residual limb to the prosthesis. Similar to how, when exercising, you work your way up to more difficult workouts, you also need to train your residual limb to the prosthesis.

While you may wish to go right to wearing your prosthetic leg all the time, it is crucial to follow the wearing schedule and not overdo it, as that may result in pain and potential injury. It takes a lot of time, strength, effort, and patience to learn to use a prosthesis, which is why the wearing schedule is important to avoid overdoing it.

Some individuals find it easier to use a cane or crutch as they learn to walk with a prosthesis because it’s a significant learning curve as you learn how to use the device and practice your balance, coordination, and gait. The cane or crutch can help provide stability as you learn to properly use your prosthesis and avoid placing unnecessary stress on the body due to an improper gait.

Once the wearing schedule is complete and your residual limb becomes fully acclimated to the prosthetic leg, you may wear your prosthesis all day. However, it is important to never wear it while sleeping.

The Cost of Prosthetic Legs

As with all other medical areas, the cost is often a significant concern for patients. However, the cost of prosthetic legs varies significantly based on the type of prosthesis and how complex or straightforward its mechanisms are. For example, a transfemoral prosthetic leg with a simple locking mechanism will cost less than a prosthetic leg that uses weight-activated lock mechanisms.

In general, some of the simpler prosthetic legs average $5,000, whereas the more complex varieties may be near $70,000. Despite this high cost, many insurance plans will partially or fully cover the cost of the prosthetic leg and other services. However, it is best to check with your insurance company to determine how much of the cost is covered and if any preauthorization for the prosthesis is required.

Man golfing with a prosthetic leg

What is the best prosthetic leg?

It is impossible to say which prosthetic leg is best overall because they are highly individualized to the patient and their lifestyle. Because of this, one prosthetic leg may be perfect for one person but not be a great fit for someone else. There are many prosthetic legs on the market, and each one has its own use case, which a practitioner will match to a patient depending on their lifestyle and personal needs.

How much does a prosthetic leg cost?

The cost of a prosthetic leg depends on two primary factors, including the type of prosthetic and how much the patient’s insurance covers. More basic prosthetics can cost around $5,000, while more advanced, computerized prosthetic legs may reach $70,000. These prices also do not take into consideration the amount covered by insurance.

How many types of prosthetic limbs are there?

There are four general types of prosthetic limbs, with two comprising artificial arms and two for artificial legs. The two general categories for prosthetic legs are transtibial and transfemoral prosthetic legs, which are characterized by whether or not they include the knee joint (i.e., above the knee prosthetic leg or below the knee prosthetic leg).  However, there are subcategories within these 2 general classifications, and they can include hip disarticulation, knee disarticulation, and partial foot amputations.

man with prosthetic leg

Can You Wear a Prosthetic Leg all Day?

A prosthetic leg can be worn all day, but only once you and your care team have decided that you are ready. When first going home with a prosthetic leg, you will have a wearing schedule to follow, which helps acclimate your residual limb to the prosthesis. Once you have completed the wearing schedule, you are free to wear the prosthesis all day so long as it does not cause any discomfort.

Does insurance cover prosthetic legs?

In most cases, insurance does cover prosthetic legs. However, coverage may vary based on your insurance type and plan. It’s essential to check with your insurance company for specific information on coverage and any preauthorization requirements.

Why Choose Lawall Prosthetics and Orthotics

At Lawall Prosthetics and Orthotics, we understand that questions are a natural part of choosing a prosthetic leg. Our trained practitioners will help you select the right prosthetic leg for your needs, teach you how to use it, and answer any lingering questions you may have. We welcome your inquiries and look forward to assisting you on your journey with a prosthetic leg. Be sure to check out our related blog post on “How To Choose The Best Prosthetist” for more guidance on finding the right professional to support you in this process.