Types of Prosthetics


Prosthetics help people by serving as a replacement for a specific body part that has been amputated. Over the years, prosthetics have become more advanced and sophisticated as technology improves. The type of prosthetic someone needs will vary based on several determining factors. Well-designed prosthetics offer much-needed functionality, provide emotional comfort, and help the amputee regain their sense of wholeness.

Finding the right prosthetic requires a medical team with the specialized knowledge and experience of working with prosthetics. At Scheck & Siress, we specialize in prosthetics and orthotics. We have over six decades of experience delivering prosthetic and orthotic care to numerous clients in the greater Chicago area. If you or a family member needs a prosthetic, contact us to schedule an appointment.

Main Types of Prosthetics

man being fitted with a prosthetic arm in an office

Image via Pixabay by RAEng_Publications

There are four main types of prosthetics. These are known as transradial, transhumeral, transtibial, and transfemoral prosthetics. Each prosthetic serves a different function depending on what body part was amputated.

Transradial Prosthetic

A transradial prosthetic fits on the arm below the elbow. It encompasses both a forearm and a wrist. Newer models of this prosthetic have wires and cables. The transradial prosthetic gives the amputee a robot-like arm, allowing them to perform several arm functions with relative ease.

Transhumeral Prosthetic

Transhumeral prosthetics sit on the arm above the elbow. It’s one of the hardest prosthetics to get fitted because of its position above the elbow. It’s also a complex prosthetic functionally to get it to mimic someone’s natural movements. The most common attachment method of connection with a transhumeral prosthetic is to use a suction system. A roll-on linear system is also another way to affix the prosthetic limb.

Transtibial Prosthetic

This prosthetic attaches to the leg below the knee. People who need a transtibial prosthetic still have a healthy part of their leg, which helps with mobility. Many amputees with transtibial prosthetics can partake in various recreational sporting activities because retaining the knee makes normal movement easier. One important thing to remember with this type of prosthetic is that the person’s entire weight rests on it. It’s crucial to find one that fits comfortably.

Transfemoral Prosthetic

The transfemoral prosthetic sits above the knee. Because the residual limb is shorter than the transfemoral prosthetic, an amputee takes longer to rehabilitate and may have a more challenging time regaining normal movement. Transfemoral amputees must use around 80% more energy to walk compared to someone who has two legs. Newer technology, such as the inclusion of hydraulic pumps and direct bone attachment, are helping amputees recover sooner.

Electronic Prosthetics: Pros and Cons

Body-powered prosthetics are widely used, but electronic options are becoming increasingly popular. Technological advances have made electronic prosthetics easier to use, and they more closely mimic natural body movements. With electronic arm prostheses, electrical signals are transmitted from the person’s brain to their arm muscles, which tells the device how to move. Currently, most electronic hands can handle basic open and close movements, while ones with individual finger movements are being developed. Leg prosthetics typically rely on a single motor that controls knee movement through electrodes implanted in the thigh.

There are some advantages and disadvantages to electronic prosthetics. One of the biggest advantages is these prostheses require less muscle strength to operate. They also tend to be more comfortable and look more realistic especially those covered by a latex “skin.”

One of the biggest cons to these prosthetics is the cost. They are significantly more pricey than prosthetics you control manually. You will need to make sure to charge the batteries every day, and they need regular maintenance. In the event of a battery failure, you cannot use the device. You cannot use these around water because there’s a risk of damaging the battery. Electronic prosthetics also weigh more than body-powered limbs.

How are Prosthetics Fitted?

Every person’s situation is different, which is why it’s crucial to get properly fitted for a prosthetic. The prosthetic should be completely customized for the patient and their injury. Amputee patients need time to be fitted for one as well. Once the surgery is completed, the patient also needs sufficient time to recuperate. The limb needs time for the swelling to go down for the wound to completely heal before the specialist can start to build a prosthetic.

Once the patient has healed, the specialist will scan the residual limb or take a cast of it to create a mold. The modification process will take numerous factors into account, including walking gait, muscles, bones, and tendons.

Modern prosthetics have changed dramatically over the years. The ones available today are lighter, stronger, and easier to control than earlier versions. Materials such as carbon fiber make prosthetics lighter and more comfortable. Patients who want a natural look can opt for a covering material that can even be matched to the client’s skin tone.

Fitting the prosthetic correctly is one of the most important aspects. Your specialists will discuss the type of prosthetic you need and what the attachment method is. The socket is the part of the device that connects to your body. It’s imperative the socket makes a snug but comfortable fit. Special soft lining is used to help avoid irritation.

The suspension system of a prosthetic is the part that helps keep it attached to your body. Depending on your needs, the suspension system can vary. Certain systems are only available in specific types of prosthetics. Your specialist will discuss the available options and which is best for your needs.

Contact Scheck & Siress

If you had a limb amputated and need to get fitted for a prosthetic, Sheck & Siress can help. The type of prosthetic you need will vary depending on whether your amputation was above the elbow or the knee. We will sit down with you and go over your options, including how the socket and suspension system work.

Schedule an appointment with a Scheck & Siress specialist today. We will help you navigate all the available options and assist you with making the best decision for your particular situation.