Prosthetic & Orthotic Information Resource

Prosthetic Devices


prosthesis Artificial substitute for a missing part of the body, usually an arm or leg. Prostheses have evolved from wooden legs and hooks that replaced hands to sophisticated plastic, fibreglass, and metal devices designed to fit limbs amputated at different points. They may have working joints and allow motion either by amplification of electric current generated by muscle contractions or by actual attachment to the muscles. Arm prostheses usually allow some degree of grasping and manipulation. External or implanted breast prostheses are used after mastectomy.

A prosthetist is a person that has been certified to fit prostheses to residual limbs of the upper and lower extremities. The fitting of lower extremity prostheses, for example, involves making a socket that fits the resdiuum as a first step.

prosthetic devices

Are You Ready?

Preparing to walk with a prosthesis may seem complex and sometimes perplexing; however, the underlying factors that determine a person’s readiness to receive a prosthesis are relatively straightforward. A person must be healthy, with a minimum level of physical fitness, and have a well-healed residual limb, or stump. As simplistic as this may seem, in many cases, amputating a limb was a lifesaving measure because of disease, tumor or a severe traumatic accident. As a result, it is common that complications associated with the amputation affect overall health, physical fitness and healing of the residual limb.

Prepare to be Fitted

Although this article will discuss many factors that are often considered by the rehabilitation team, the majority of issues discussed probably will not pertain to every amputee.
One of the primary concerns is stump swelling. Swelling occurs in the stump in the same way it does around any other lesion or insult to the body. It is one of the body’s defense mechanisms associated with inflammation. The insult to skin, muscle, bone and other tissues results in swelling, pain, redness and loss of function. The body is trying to heal the tissues as quickly as possible, thereby producing a cellular response that far exceeds what is necessary. If ignored, the cellular response will continue to manifest itself and the time required for the swelling to subside will be much greater than it needs to be.

Treatment of the swelling is relatively simple: compression, elevation and activity. Compression is applied in the form of stump wrapping, shrinkers or some other form of pressure garment. The pressure created by compression garments helps move the fluids out of the recovering limb, reduce the pressure on other tissues, and, as a result, reduce pain. One of the key ingredients in successfully reducing swelling as quickly as possible is around-the-clock maintenance of pressure until the volume of fluids within the limb stabilizes. When the pressure garment is removed, however, it takes very little time for some fluids to return to the tissues and undo all the good swelling reduction that was accomplished in the previous days.

Elevating the limb can have a positive effect only if the limb is raised above the heart. Dangling the limb from a chair or long periods of standing can have a negative effect. Conversely, activity can have a very positive effect. Contractions of the muscles help to move the fluids out of the muscle and other surrounding tissues. The time it takes for the swelling to subside varies depending on age, body type and cause of amputation. Younger people will generally heal more quickly.

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