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What is an Amputation Prosthesis?

By L.R. Ferguson
Updated May 17, 2024
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An amputation prosthesis — also referred to as an amputation prosthetic or prosthetic limb — is an artificial device that is used to substitute a missing part of the body. Typically, the prosthesis is modeled after a limb and replaces one that has been lost because of disease, trauma or a birth defect. A prosthesis allows an amputee to regain control or use of a specific part of the body, and it can help restore the afflicted area to somewhat normal function.

There are several reasons why one might need an amputation prosthesis. For one, a person might suffer from a disease that negatively affects the circulatory system, resulting in the necessary amputation of an extremity to avoid infection. Another reason for wearing an amputation prosthesis is trauma, which can cause complete or partial amputation of a limb. Trauma can also result in damage to a body part so severe that it can no longer function and needs to be removed. Also, congenital diseases can cause a person to be born with abnormalities, requiring that a prosthesis be worn.

Common amputation sites where prosthetics are worn include the arms, hands, legs and feet. Furthermore, depending on the individual case, there are many devices that an amputee can use, many of which are light, durable and sturdy. No matter why an amputation prosthesis is necessary, the prosthetic can give the amputee a feeling of normalcy and, in many cases, a renewed sense of independence. Many people return to doing everyday activities — or get to participate in an activity for the first time — with the help of a prosthesis.

In addition, an amputation prosthesis can be helpful for people who suffer from phantom limb pain, sporadic sensation and discomfort at the amputation site. Phantom limb pain usually strikes soon after the amputation procedure and can last for several months. This is largely a result of nerve endings that continue to send signals to the brain even after amputation. Advanced prosthetics have been shown to aid in decreasing phantom limb pain by providing sensory feedback, and they help reorganize how the nervous system responds to the amputated limb.

Despite the benefits of using a prosthesis, amputees can choose to forgo the use of one. Some people decide that they are comfortable with the results of their amputation and that they can function fairly well without the prosthetic device. Other amputees might not use prosthetic limbs because they are not able to afford them. Depending on the quality, functionality and how often it needs to be replaced, an amputation prosthesis can be affordable or very costly.

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