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The Variety Myoelectric Center at Beaumont Children’s

Since 1981, the Variety Myoelectric Center has changed the lives of hundreds of children with rare upper limb deficiencies from across the country and around the world. A partnership between Variety the Children's Charity-Detroit and Beaumont Children's, the Center is the most comprehensive of its kind in the country.

Its primary purpose is to make lifelike myoelectric prosthetic arms and hands available to all children who need them, regardless of their insurance coverage or other ability to pay. It includes what may be the nation's largest operating bank of children's prosthetic limb components. This bank is what makes it possible for the Center to serve children without adequate insurance coverage.

A myoelectric prosthesis is an external, battery-powered device that substitutes for a missing arm and hand. "Myo" is the Greek term for muscle. Hand motions in a myoelectric limb are controlled by electronic sensors activated by muscles higher up the arm. A myoelectric prosthesis provides children with the ability to grasp objects, tie shoes, cut with scissors and perform many other activities that require two hands.

The Variety Myoelectric Center is based in Royal Oak, Michigan at Beaumont Children's. The Center works with children and adolescents with upper extremity amputations and deficiencies and their families to provide evaluation, recommendation and assistance in obtaining a myoelectric prosthesis. Services are available to children with various levels of limb loss or deficiency.

In addition to offering access to myoelectric prostheses, the program features occupational therapy (OT) to train children in the use of their prosthetic devices in daily functional activities such as dressing, handwriting and other fine motor skills. The Variety Myoelectric Center is under the medical direction of Edward Dabrowski, M.D., who is also system director of Pediatric Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation.

Clinic visits in Royal Oak provide families the opportunity to meet the Center's team, which includes an expert pediatric physiatrist (a physician specializing in children's rehabilitation), highly trained occupational therapists and experienced pediatric prosthetists (experts in designing and fitting artificial limbs for children).

An initial evaluation determines whether a child is an appropriate candidate for an upper extremity prosthesis, specifically a myoelectric prosthesis. Factors considered in determining candidacy include the child's medical history, any contraindications, family support and the child's motivation to accept a myoelectric arm, as well the availability of sites for myoelectric signaling.

Once a child has been determined to be an appropriate candidate, he or she will be fitted for an artificial electric hand or myoelectric arm prosthesis. Once the child has received the prosthesis, he or she attends occupational therapy for training, strengthening and the development of the functional skills required to use the device. Appointments are condensed into as short a period of time as possible to accommodate families from outside Michigan.

Variety Myoelectric Center clinicians offer a tremendous wealth of experience and dedication to serving children with disabilities. They have evaluated children with upper extremity limb deficiencies from across the globe, fitting them with several hundred electronic prostheses. To accommodate growth, each child requires multiple prostheses over the course of many years. The Center's expertise spans a wide variety of limb deficiency types, prosthetic components, evaluation and fitting and training techniques.

Funding Assistance

Many health insurance plans only offer partial payment for a child's artificial limb. In some cases, specific prosthetic procedures and technology, such as object-compliant hands, a multi-joint prehensor, electronic hand or fully configured bionic arm may be excluded as "not medically necessary."

Meeting deductibles and co-pays for these prosthetic devices and services can be difficult for families, particularly since children generally outgrow a myoelectric prosthesis every 18 to 24 months. These deductibles and co-pays can add up to several thousand dollars.

The Variety Myoelectric Center also offers access to resources for parents seeking an up-to-date analysis and interpretation of their current health care insurance policy as it relates to coverage for various prosthetic services and procedures, such as an electronic hand, object-compliant hands, prosthetic terminal device, expedited prosthetic fitting, multi-joint prehensor or a complete bionic arm.

The Center's staff will work with families to evaluate all funding options, including securing funding through Variety the Children's Charity-Detroit.