Short Introduction to Prostheses: What They Are and What They Do

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Once you have gotten over the amputation or surgery and you are starting to heal, the next logical step is to start considering leg prosthesis. If you are losing a limb for the first time, the future may not look too bright. The good news is that prosthetics have advanced a great deal over the past decade or so. There is a good chance that you may recover most of not all of your mobility with the right artificial leg. It is however necessary to first speak to your doctor about this possibility to allow you to set realistic expectations. Meanwhile, here is a short overview of what prosthesis is and how it works.

What is Prosthesis?

Prosthesis simply refers to an artificial substitute for a limb lost through an accident, at birth, due to illness or in war. Prosthesis can either be solely cosmetic, solely practical or both. Cosmesis, for example, are designed for cosmetic purposes and do not provide any type of functionality. The most common type is the artificial hand. Prostheses are however generally highly functional and may be made from simple wires, rods and metals where aesthetics is not a concern or more complex for aesthetics.

Prosthesis is also commonly referred to as limb replacement, prosthetic limbs and artificial limbs.

Common Types of Prosthesis

There are two distinct types of artificial legs made by prosthetic companies. These are distinguished as;

Transtibial or BK – which refers to prosthesis that attach below the knee

Transfemoral or AK – attached above the knee and has comes as a lower and upper artificial leg which typically includes an artificial knee.

How Prosthesis Work

Prosthesis is more complicated than other supportive or corrective products such as scoliosis back brace. The typical product has three distinctive parts, the, control system, attachment mechanism and socket. Each part plays its own role to ensure that the limb works as a whole.

Control System: Prostheses use chords and cables to mimic a rudimentary version of how muscles work in natural limbs. Simple leg prosthesis however use little more than gravity to function, where the wearer learns through practice to walk. Some of the more advanced options use battery packs and electric controls to function.

Attachment Mechanism: This is the part that connects the actual artificial limb to the remaining part of the natural limb. Prosthetic companies typically use straps and harnesses, suction sockets or elastic sleeves for a comfortable and secure fit. This component is critical to the limb’s functionality and control.

Socket: The socket fits the residual limb (referred also to as stump) to the artificial limb. This socket is typically a plaster mold of the residual limb to ensure a perfect fit. The residual limb may change size and shape especially in the first few months and years after surgery, so the socket needs to be replaced as the need arises.

This is just a basic overview of how prostheses work. A prosthesis expert can provide detailed information and help you pick out the most appropriate option depending on your physical and mobility requirements.

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