Issues with donated P&O products

Donated, used devices may seem like a logical solution to the lack of orthotic and prosthetic services in less resourced countries. However, re-issue of these devices can cause significant harm to clients.

Most prostheses and orthoses are custom made for individual clients through a process of assessment, limb measurement and/or plaster casting of the limb or body part; in order to get a device that meets a user’s individual shape and functional needs.

Two Samoan staff adjusting a the knee of a prostheses

Custom made devices

In order to make sure that forces are properly distributed onto a client’s limb or body part, biomechanical principles are applied when measuring and designing orthoses or prosthetic sockets (the moulded interface between the prosthesis and the user).

If the orthosis or socket does not fit properly, a user may suffer pain, and there is a high risk that their skin could break down, leading to further complications such as infection and non-healing. The risk is even higher for clients with diabetes.

For these reasons, it is essential that each individual client goes through a thorough assessment, prescription, fitting and follow-up process.

Donated prosthetic sockets and custom orthoses are NOT appropriate to be re-issued and should not be donated as they may cause significant harm to the client.

Devices, components and Materials

The donation of some used or surplus, non-custom made devices, components and materials can be very beneficial for services in less resourced settings, as long as they meet certain criteria:

  • Adjustability: The device or components must be easily adjusted to fit the end user.
  • Suitability: The device, component or material must be suitable for the user’s environment.
  • Durability: The device, component or material must be in good condition, long lasting and easily repaired. With replacement parts easily available.
  • Sustainability: The device, component or material should be supplied in a way that contributes to long-term service delivery to the community.

Donation recipients

Prosthetic and orthotic devices, components or materials should only be donated to services with appropriately trained personnel.

The International Society of Prosthetics and Orthotics (ISPO) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) have set minimum standards for Prosthetics and Orthotics training. The minimum length of training for a single discipline (prosthetics or orthotics) is 18 months, whilst combined Prosthetics Orthotics training requires at least three years of formal education, through an ISPO recognised school.

If you wish to donate equipment, Motivation Australia or organisations such as ISPO Australia Outreach can provide information about appropriate services. For more information please contact Senior Programme Advisor, Lee Brentnall.