First, there were prosthetic limbs that helped only to a certain extent. Now, in a quantum lead forward, there are robotic prosthetic limbs that look absolutely normal, have the same skin tone and work through bio-sensors that detect signals from the nervous system or the muscular system to perform the required tasks.
"Unlike the prosthetic body parts that hardly helped people in making their lives easier, newer materials like advanced plastics, carbon-fibre composites and electronic technology make today's advanced prosthetics more controllable and even capable of automatically adapting their functions to certain tasks," Amit Bhanti, Global CEO, Comprehensive Prosthetics and Orthotics (CPO), a global premium provider of prosthetics and orthotics, told IANS.
Take the case of 20-year-old Fredrick Verghese, a double hand amputee. He was miserable even after prosthetic hands were fixed to his elbow joints after he lost both his arms in a train mishap. Every time he felt thirsty or wanted to do any chores, a family member or a friend had to be around to provide him the help he needed.
Not just that. Fredrick had to be assisted during meals, for wearing clothes and many other tasks. A family member had to assist him even in the washroom.
His disappointed parents consulted another surgeon who advised them to get the prosthetic hands replaced with robotic advanced prosthetic hands.
With a fervent prayer that the new technology would help make their son's life easier, Fredrick's parents got the needful done.
Things changed for the good after that, and Fredrick slowly started to do things on his own without seeking anybody's help.
"It seems I have been blessed with a second life. The robotic prosthetic arms made me become independent. The previous prosthetic arms hardly made any difference," Fredrick told IANS.
Fredrick can easily pick up a glass of water with his robotic prosthetic arms, which are equipped with flexible fingers.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), over two million robotic prosthetic body part replacements are done every year globally. The newly introduced technology in India has picked up well among those who have amputated limbs, hands or fingers.
According to Indian medical experts, the robotic prosthetic limbs cost anywhere between Rs.40,000 and Rs.100,000. The price is likely to come down further with increased use.
Rajeev Sharma, orthopaedician and joints replacement surgeon at the Indraprastha Apollo Hospital, said that robotic prosthetic replacements have not just made the life of the affected people easier but also given them the courage to come out into the open.
Sharma said the reason the new technology is taking time to pick up in India is the lack of awareness of its availability.
"We are trying to bring this awareness and comfort in the lives of our patients, so that the rehabilitation process returns them their mobility and the quality of their life," Sharma told IANS.
Vivek Lohania, chief of joints replacement at Paras Hospital, said that while robotic prosthetic body parts benefit patients as compared to the previous ones, users need to keep special measures in mind while using them.
"The prosthetics are made of different types of material. And just like any material if it is bent or abused, it will have the tendency to break," Lohania told IANS.
"There are no general guidelines because each patient will have a unique set of instructions for the prosthetic device. Each individual device has its own care and usage guidelines to be adhered to," he added.
(Rupesh Dutta can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)