The Various Types of Prosthetic Limbs

Posted on Thursday, December 5th, 2019 at 11:51 am    

In a recently-posted article, we discussed the various types of workers compensation benefits that may be due to an injured worker when an amputation occurs as a result of an on-the-job injury. 

Here we discuss the various types of prostheses that may be employed to help amputees return to more functional lives. 

According to Amputee Coalition, there are many different types of prosthetic devices that workers who lose an arm, leg, or other body part should know about. The devices vary depending on which limb is affected. Workers need to understand what to be expect when being fit for a prosthesis.. They also need to understand how often the prosthetic will need to be replaced and what rehabilitation treatment is required. 

There are a variety of workers’ compensation issues involved with prosthetic devices. Generally, workers should fight, to hold employers to their requirement to provide quality prosthetic devices. The primary consideration should be how well the prosthesis works – and not the price of the prosthesis. Injured workers should consult with both their physicians and their North Carolina or Virginia workers’ compensation attorney to choose the right prosthesis for their medical needs.

Prosthesis vs. Prosthetic

Prosthetics is the science behind creating prosthetic devices. It’s a field of study. The singular device amputees use/wear as a substitute limb is known as a prosthesis. The plural of prosthesis is prostheses. The aim of the prosthetic is to give the worker who requires the prosthetic as much mobility and function as possible. Prostheses are also designed to help with the wearer’s lifestyle and appearance.

Leg Amputation and Prosthetics

A worker who requires a leg amputation surgery will either have his/her leg amputated above or below the knee. 

Below the Knee (Transtibial) Amputation

This type of amputation is performed between the knee and the ankle. “The prosthesis is designed with moveable and adjustable joints and pylons. These components replicate a human thigh, ankle, and foot.” It’s generally much for advantageous for the person who needs a prosthesis that the amputation be below the knee. In general, a prosthesis works better if the amputation is below the knee.

Above the Knee (Transfemoral) Amputation

This type of surgery is performed above the knee joint. Like the below the knee prosthesis, this “prosthesis is designed with moveable to joints and pylons to replicate a human knee, thigh, ankle, and foot.”

Types of Prosthetic Legs

  • Exoskeletal Prosthesis. “A wood or urethane foam prosthesis with a hard plastic shell. This prosthesis is heavier and less customizable than an endoskeletal prosthetic. But it is more durable and long-lasting.”
  • Endoskeletal Prosthesis. “A prosthesis with an inner support pylon made of light-weight materials such as aluminum or titanium. Feet and knees can be swapped out. This makes the endoskeletal prosthesis easily adjustable for different activities and active lifestyles.”
  • Knee Options. For workers who have an above the knee amputation, there are different prosthetic knee joints available. The prices and functionality differ. The two common kinds of prosthetic knee joints are: 
    • “Single-axis knees. Hinge-style knees that can only bend forward and backward.”
    • Polycentric knees. “Also referred to as “fourbar” knees, they can rotate on multiple axes.”

Some of the factors that workers need to consider when choosing a knee joint prosthesis are the amount of rehabilitation that is required, “the various stability and motion control options available” and the different price points.

Fitting a Prosthetic Leg

The worker/patient doesn’t generally wear the prosthesis immediately. They injured leg must heal first. Most workers who need a prosthesis use a temporary prosthesis during the first few months after the amputation. The test prosthesis should allow the worker to get the training and physical therapy he/she needs.

“A plaster cast of the residual limb or a 3D laser scanner creates a custom prosthetic socket. The initial test socket is flexible to adjust to the reduction of swelling in the residual limb. It serves to minimize pressure and abrasion.”

While you’re rehabbing your knee, you will give the prosthetic designer the information needed to make cast a final socket. 

Leg Amputation Resources

The Amputee Coalition recommends the following resources:

Arm Amputation and Prosthetics

The aim of an arm prostheses is to allow the user to grip and manipulate objects such as eating utensils and the things they need to live and work. The amputees are fitted either for above the elbow or below the elbow devices. “Electric prostheses can even move based on signals from the wearer’s muscles.”

Below the Elbow (Transradial) Amputation

“Below the elbow amputations are performed between the hand and elbow. Prostheses are designed to replace the forearm, wrist, and hand.”

Above the Elbow (Transhumeral) Amputation

“Above the elbow amputations are performed at or above the elbow. As most of the arm is removed, a hybrid prosthesis is the best option to provide the motion of the elbow and also provide grip.”

Types of Prosthetic Arms:

  • Body-Powered. “A three-harness cable system prosthesis that allows the wearer to grasp objects, flex and lock the elbow. This is the least expensive type of arm prosthesis. There are two varieties of body-powered prostheses that offer different hand functions:
    • Voluntary Open: opens the hand when applying tension to the cable
    • Voluntary Close: closes the hand when applying tension to the cable”
  • Electrically Powered. “An electrically powered prosthesis that resembles a real arm. The user controls it with electrical impulses through muscles in the residual limb. This option is more expensive than a body-powered prosthesis and it needs frequent recharging. It also requires a great deal of fine-tuning to get the prosthesis to interpret the electrical signals, and may not work for all people. Most electric prosthetic arms provide basic grip functionality. But some of the latest electric prostheses have fully controllable fingers.”
  • Hybrid. “A combination of both body-powered and electrical components. This type of prosthesis is generally used for above the elbow amputations. It’s specialized to enable a greater range of motion and function for the wearer.”

Fitting a Prosthetic Arm:

Many of the same principles that apply to being fitted for a leg prosthetic apply to being fitted for an arm prosthetic. With an arm prosthesis, special attention is given to how the prosthesis affects the skin.

Arm Amputation Resources

Amputee Coalition recommends the following resources for arm amputees.

Attorney Joe Miller has been a strong advocate for injured workers in North Carolina and Virginia for more than 25 years. He understands that a good part of every workers’ compensation is working with your doctors and medical team to help maximize your chances for the best recovery possible. He fights to get all your medical paid for the rest of your life. He also fights to show you inability to work is properly classified so you can the maximum wage loss benefits you deserve. For help with any work injury, including amputation, call attorney Joe Miller at 888-694-1671. or fill out my contact form to schedule an appointment.