Any costing exercise can appear daunting in the light of the fact that a great deal depends on the costing timeline as well as the scope of the numerous elements involved, not to mention making adequate provision for the unforeseen. 

Hence, determining how much it costs to build and maintain a prosthetic device is no different to anything else that requires careful analysis.  For example, let’s compare calculating how much it costs to flight an ad in the newspaper to how much it costs to build a prosthetic leg. 

How long is a piece of string?

In this example one might first answer this question with another question:  How long is a piece of string?  The answer:  As far as the newspaper is concerned a lot depends upon the advertising rates as laid down by the publication in question, the size of the ad to be flighted and whether it is in full colour or black and white. 

No “one-size-fits-all approach”

Similarly, as far as prosthetics are concerned there is no one-size-fits-all approach and prosthetics also come in at an entry level price for the more basic, economical devices and demand a higher price for the more specialised, sophisticated devices.

Important considerations

So just how do we go about finding out exactly how much money is required to fund a prosthetic leg?  Before we get into a more detailed costs analysis, there are numerous important considerations that first need to be included in the overall picture.

Costs of the fitting – are they fitting?

  • Many people walk just as well using more economical versus more expensive devices.  Some of the more economically priced prosthetic devices work just as well as their more costly counterparts.  Walking comfortably does not only depend upon the nature of the device.

  • When wearing any prosthetic device, the fit of the socket and alignment of the leg are the most important aspects to be considered.  Hence, even if funds are tight, one can walk well with a comfortable fit and correct alignment.

  • No matter what type of prosthetic device is used, from the very basic to the most sophisticated, the prosthetist applies the same level of skill and detail in working with the patient to achieve the best results.

  • The labour component of prosthetic rehabilitation is often expensive since the process involves numerous fittings and test sockets.  At least 3 – 4 fittings and sometimes between 10 and 20 fittings may be required before the patient is Walking comfortably.

  • A new patient may often feel disappointed upon first fitting.  However, one needs to bear in mind that any new device will require certain tweaks to get it right.

  • Walking comfortably using any prosthetic device is an ongoing commitment.  Over time, new components will be required to be replaced.  This is especially relevant in the case of amputees who are growing children.

  • For both above and below knee prosthetics, if the patient has a short residual limb (stump) or the amputation is short, extra costs may be involved.

  • Depending on the weight of the individual wearing the prosthetic, prosthetic components usually come with a 12-month guarantee.

Cost comparison overview according to amputation level

The first thing to be considered is that a lot depends upon the level at which the amputation was performed. 

When the leg is amputated Below the Knee (BK)

In the case of a below knee (BK) amputation we are looking at a cheaper device overall since there is no requirement for a prosthetic knee joint.

Yet, while below knee prosthetic components do not involve the use of a knee device, they still require the inclusion of a foot.  Therefore, costs are calculated according to the required mechanical complexities involved.

Figure 1: Allen Merton – Below Knee (BK) Amputee

When the leg is amputated through the knee (Through Knee Amputation)

A leg has that has been amputated through the knee, otherwise known as a Through Knee Amputation also requires the inclusion of a prosthetic knee device.  

Above Knee (AK) Amputation and Through Hip Amputation Levels

When the leg has been amputated above the knee (Above Knee Amputation) or through the hip (Through Hip Amputation) more functionality has been lost and therefore more mechanical components are required and naturally, any additional pieces add to the overall price. 

N.B. When analysing the table presented below please bear in mind that time involved for labour can be anything between 20 hours and 60 hours, depending on individual circumstances.  However, we will make every effort possible to accommodate your budget.  When you come in for a free first consultation we will provide you with a quote.  Please note that terms and conditions apply.

Figure 2: Habermann Modular Knee Joint 3R20 (image courtesy of Otto Bock)

Figure 3: Roger Wolfson with Phillip Herbst – Above Knee (AK) Amputee

Prosthetic Componentry per Amputation Level 
Amputation LevelComponentry
Partial Foot – Mid-foot AmputationProsthetic Fitting - Ankle Disarticulation (Symes)
From R20 000 upwardsSymes Test Socket - Diagnostic
Socket Liner
Cosmetic Cover
Symes Foot
Symes Stump Sock
Below Knee (BK) AmputationProsthetic Fitting - Transtibial Endoskeletal
From R20 000 upwards
Test Socket Regular / Silicone Prosthesis
Suspension System (Shuttle Lock / Vacuum)
Prosthetic Foot With Ankle
Cosmetic Cover
Cosmetic Stocking
Stump Sock
Prosthetic Sheath
Short Tube
Tube Clamp Adapter
Tube Adapter
Silicone Liner
Suspension Sleeves (If Vacuum Suspension)
Through Knee (TK) AmputationProsthetic Fitting - Knee Disarticulation
R50 000 upwardsTest Socket Regular / Silicone Prosthesis
Socket Liner TF
Suspension System (Shuttle Lock / Vacuum)
Prosthetic Foot With Ankle
Cosmetic Cover
Long Tube
Tube Clamp Adapter
Tube Adapter
Silicone Liner
Suspension Sleeve (If Vacuum Suspension)
Cosmetic Stocking
Prosthetic Mechanical Knee
Intelligent Knees with Computer Chips
Socket Attachment Block
Lamination Anchor and Dummy
Rotation Adapter
Stump Sock
Prosthetic Sheath
Above Knee (AK) Amputation
Prosthetic fitting - transfemoral endoskeletal
R50 000 upwards
Test Socket Regular / Silicone Prosthesis
Socket Liner TF
Ischium Containment Socket
Suspension System (Shuttle Lock / Vacuum)
Prosthetic Foot With Ankle
Cosmetic Cover
Long Tube
Tube Clamp Adapter
Tube Adapter
Silicone Liner
Suspension Sleeve (If Vacuum Suspension)
Cosmetic Stocking
Prosthetic Mechanical Knee
Intelligent Knees with Computer Chips
Socket Attachment Block
Lamination Anchor and Dummy
Rotation Adapter
Stump Sock
Prosthetic Sheath
Hip Disarticulation (HD) Amputation
Prosthetic fitting - transfemoral endoskeletal
R90 000 upwardsSuspension System (Shuttle Lock / Vacuum)
Fit Prosthetic hip joint belt to prosthesis
Prosthetic Foot With Ankle
Cosmetic Cover
Long Tube
Tube Clamp Adapter
Tube Adapter
Cosmetic Stocking
Hip Joint
Prosthetic Mechanical Knee
Intelligent Knees with Computer Chips
Socket Attachment Block
Hip lamination anchor
Rotation Adapter

Final considerations

The amputee rehabilitation process is one that takes time and commitment from the patient as well as the team of medical specialists involved.  Much depends upon adopting the right attitude and being determined enough to get the best prosthetic outcomes at all costs no matter what the costs.