Six Prosthetic Options

There are six basic prosthetic options to consider for the upper extremity amputee. The type of prosthesis needed depends on the level of amputation, the condition of the residual limb, individual goals and work requirements, and other variables. An individual often needs more than one prosthesis to accomplish all of his or her goals. Personal requirements may be function-related, cosmetic or psychological in nature. The six prosthetic options are:

Electrically-powered prosthesis with silicone restoration and IPod

Electrically-Powered Prosthesis
This category of prosthesis uses small electrical motors in the terminal device (hand or hook), wrist and elbow. A rechargeable battery system powers the motors. Because electric motors operate the hand function, its grip force is significantly increased, often in excess of 20-32 pounds.

Cosmetic Restoration
Cosmetic restoration, or duplication of the contralateral arm or hand, is a popular prosthetic option. This involves replacing what was lost from amputation or congenital deficiency with a prosthesis similar in appearance to the non-affected arm or hand and provides simple aid in balancing and carrying.

No Prosthesis
Not all people are candidates for a prosthesis, and even if they are, many choose not to wear one. Only half of all upper extremity amputees ever receive prosthetic services. Of those, half will stop using their prosthesis during the first year. For many amputees, their level of function is simply not enhanced by the use of a prosthesis. Others, without adequate funding, may receive a prosthesis that does not address their individual needs or that causes pain and discomfort and they discontinue further prosthetic care.

Body-Powered Prosthesis
A body-powered (or conventional) prosthesis is powered and controlled by gross body movements of the shoulder, upper arm, chest, etc. The movements are captured by a harness system attached to a cable and connected to a terminal device (hook or hand). Some levels of amputation or deficiency allow an elbow system to be added for improved function.

Activity-Specific Prosthesis
An activity-specific prosthesis is designed for an activity that requires some function or durability that other prostheses cannot provide. Often created for recreational activities such as fishing, swimming, golfing, hunting, bicycle riding and weight lifting, prostheses have also been designed for music or work-related tasks.

Hybrid Prosthesis
A hybrid prosthesis combines body power and electrical power. Most hybrid prostheses are used for individuals with transhumeral (above the elbow) amputations or deficiencies.

We want to thank Advanced Arm Dynamics for contributing this information to AWRF.