If you are exploring the world of prosthetics to improve your quality of life, you may be wondering what type of prosthesis you need. Discover the different types of prosthetics, how they work, and the benefits they provide.
What is a prosthesis?
A prosthesis is a device used to replace any missing part of the body in order to restore functionality. Even false teeth are considered a type of prosthesis, but the term prosthesis is most often used to describe an artificial arm or leg.
Prosthetics is the term to describe the process of replacing a missing body part, while a prosthesis is the term for the actual artificial part.
How do prosthetics work?
The world of custom prosthetics is a fascinating one, using modern technology and intricate details of the body’s functionalities to develop a perfectly fitted artificial part, thereby restoring function to an amputee. A licensed prosthetist works directly with a new amputee to begin the fitting process, some of which can be done prior to surgery.
Since every surgery is unique and each body different, a prosthesis must be completely customized to fit the patient’s body. After surgery, the patient must be allowed sufficient time for healing. The swelling must go down and the wound must heal before the prosthetist can begin the process to build a prosthesis.
After the healing time has passed, the prosthetist scans or casts the residual limb to create a mold of the patient’s limb. Then the modification process begins, taking many factors into consideration, like muscles, tendons, bones, and walking gait. This process will eventually lead to the design of the customized prosthesis.
The Mechanics of a Prosthesis
The modern technology used in custom prosthetics creates artificial limbs that are light, strong, and controllable. Today, lighter composites, such as carbon fiber, are used. A foam-like material is sometimes used to cover the pylon and can be matched to the patient’s skin tone for a more life-like appearance.
The part of the device that interfaces with the natural body part is called the socket. Your prosthetist will work to meticulously fit this portion of the prosthetic to your body to provide a snug fit, and a soft liner is used to avoid irritation. The suspension system is used to keep the prosthesis attached to the body, but the suspension mechanism can come in many different forms depending on the specific needs of the patient. The location of the amputation also plays a role in determining the type of prosthesis necessary.
Types of Prosthetics
Whether an amputation is above or below the major joints — knee or elbow — makes a significant difference in the type of artificial limb needed. There are four primary types of prosthetics, and each type requires a unique approach to regaining optimum function after an amputation.
- A transradial prosthesis is an artificial limb that provides the functionality of a wrist and hand, replacing an arm missing below the elbow.
- A transhumeral prosthesis provides functionality of the majority of the arm by replacing an arm missing above the elbow.
- A transtibial prosthesis replaces a leg missing below the knee, which allows the patient to retain use of their knee.
- A transfemoral prosthesis replaces a leg missing above the knee, requiring a device that also provides functionality of the missing knee. This type of prosthesis is arguably the most complex, but modern technology has led to numerous options for transfemoral amputees.
Types of ProstheticKnee Systems
Consumer needs vary greatly in knee systems, so working with your prosthetist to determine the ideal fit for you is crucial to the overall success of prosthetic knees. Factors such as age, activity level, health, and lifestyle should all be considered.
Contrary to popular belief, the latest advances may not be the best choice for every amputee. For example, some may need to prioritize safety and stability over functional performance, while athletes and active amputees may determine functionality is their first priority.
Your prosthetist can help you navigate the options and make the best decision to fit your lifestyle. When comparing a single-axis versus a polycentric knee, a single-axis is a simple hinge while a polycentric provides multiple axes of rotation. Another variant in knee systems is stability options: manual versus weight-activated locking systems.
Motion control options also vary in constant friction versus variable friction as well as fluid control systems that can either contain air (pneumatic) or contain fluid (hydraulic.) Microprocessor knees are currently the most advanced technology; sensors detect movement and adjust accordingly.
Benefits of Prosthetics
For many amputees, a prosthesis allows them to continue daily activities and enjoy life to the fullest. Improved mobility and support during rehabilitation provide amputees the means to remain independent. Although the journey after amputation can be a transition with inevitable challenges, you can return to your optimal life, especially with the right support system and working with the best certified prosthetists.
To Learn More
To learn more about what type of prosthesis you may need, contact the experts at Horton’s Orthotics and Prosthetics. We would be happy to schedule a complimentary consultation to determine the best device for your lifestyle, so you can begin to reap all the benefits of modern prosthetics. Call us at (501) 683-8889 or contact us today for more information.