Understanding Different Types Of Prosthetic Limbs

Prosthetic limbs allow people with missing legs or arms to function normally on a day-to-day basis. One may be disabled because of a congenital defect present at birth, an amputation, or a war wound. For people without the need for a prosthetic limb, they might not realize the different options available. If you have recently suffered from an injury that requires a prosthetic limb, read on to learn more about your options.

Types of Prosthetics

Each person's needs are different when it comes to the type of prosthesis needed. Depending on the point at which a limb stops (below or above a knee or elbow) the prosthetic device has a different name. For amputees with an intact upper leg, transtibial devices attach below the knee. Transfemoral devices give patients with above-the-knee amputations mobility. When an arm needs a prosthetic, a transradial device attaches below the elbow to replace the forearm. If the patient is missing part of their arm past the elbow, they receive a transhumeral device. Depending on your injury, your prosthetic specialist will determine the right type of prosthetic device.

Prosthetic Limb Styles 

There are different styles of prosthetic limbs depending on your needs. However, each limb is made up of four components: the limb itself, the socket, the attachment mechanism, and the control system. These four parts work together to create a lightweight limb that mimics the look and function of a natural arm or leg. When you visit a prosthetist to purchase a prosthetic limb, you can choose from one of the following options.

Cosmesis - A cosmesis is a special type of prosthetic device that prioritizes aesthetics over usability, and is typically chosen for an arm rather than a leg. You might choose a cosmesis if you want to restore the look of two functioning hands. These cosmeses offer life-like fingers, joints, skin tone, and even freckles. 

Body-Controlled - When function is a priority, you can choose to get a body-controlled device that allows for greater control and range of motion. In a body-controlled arm prosthetic, the control system attaches cables to a different part of the body (typically the other shoulder) that can tell the prosthetic what to do. When you move your shoulder in certain ways, it sends specific signals to the prosthetic to create certain movements. An external motor connects to the cable and moves the limb.

Myoelectric - The latest in prosthetic technology is myoelectric prosthetics. These advanced devices use electrodes placed on the limb to listen to muscles for direction. The idea is that the muscles still perform certain movements to control the limb, even when it's gone. Those movements are translated by the electrodes and sent to the external motor to produce movement. 

You can choose from any of the above prostheses styles, or switch back and forth on certain days, depending on your specific needs. Talk to your healthcare specialist for suggestions and advice when picking a type of prosthetic service