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Artificial Limbs for Prosthesis

There are many reasons people can lose all or an arm or leg that may need amputation. When someone loses a limb due to traumatic injury (from accident or military), diseases like cancer, diabetes, or atherosclerosis, congenital defect (birth defect) it can sometimes be replaced by artificial limb also known as prosthetic limbs that can help person to perform daily essential activities such as walking, eating or dressing. Prosthetic implants can be parts of the joint such as a unilateral knee, hips, knee, elbow, ankle and finger joints.

A prosthesis is a designed for both functional and cosmetic reasons. Cosmesis is a type of prosthesis designed purely for cosmetic purpose and has little or no function such as artificial hands whereas other prostheses are highly functional and have little or no cosmetic concealment such as artificial legs that can be covered by trousers. With advancement in cosmesis technology, limbs are made up from silicon or PVC making artificial hands look like a real completing it with freckles, veins, hair, fingerprints etc. They can be attached to the body by using an body adhesive, suction, stretchable skin or skin sleeve.

An artificial limb is a type of prosthesis that replaces a missing limb (arms or legs). There have been significant advancements in artificial limbs in recent years. These new and more advance artificial limbs are stronger and lighter as they are made up of new plastics and other special material such as carbon fiber makes it easier for a person to operate the limb. There are mainly four types of artificial or prosthetic limbs that include:

1. Transradial Prothesis – it is an artificial limb that replaces a missing arm below the elbow. These are mainly of two types:
? Cable operated limbs – that work by attaching a harness and a cable around the opposite shoulder of the injured arm.
? Myoelectric arm- they work by sensing through electrodes when the muscles in the upper arm move causing an artificial hand to work (open or close).

2. Transhumeral prosthesis – a prosthetic lower and upper arm including prosthetic elbow.

3. Transtibial prosthesis - an prosthetic lower leg attached to an intact upper leg

4. Transferomal prosthesis – a prosthetic lower and upper leg including a prosthetic knee.

There are number of different parts of the prosthesis that consists of:

1. Prosthetic limb – a prosthetic arm or leg is made up of strong, durable and lightweight material like carbon fiber covered with pad for comfort or skin colored plastic. The most important factor of prosthetic limbs is weight. Light weight prosthetic limbs are more efficient in quick and easy movement.

2. The socket – is the connecting part between the prosthetic limb and patient’s body and it is molded around a plaster cast taken from the residual limb. It should be properly fit so as not to damage the residual limb. Improper fit can cause discomfort, tissue damage or making it difficult/impossible to wear the prosthesis. Socket will needed to be changed after several months or years as the residual limb of the patient is likely to change its shape and size. New advance and proper fitted sockets can be made by using laser and cutting edge techniques.

3. The attachment mechanism – a proper fitted prosthesis is secured to a residual limb by a suspension system that can be an elastic sleeve, a suction socket, straps or harness. It should be well fitted to comfort and ensure the proper control of limb.

4. Control system – many sophisticated prosthesis are electrically controlled and powered by rechargeable battery such as myoelectric which uses electrodes to sense muscular impulses in the residual limb and those signals can be detected by electronic control systems which amplify them to power electric motors to operate the prosthetic limb.

Prosthesis are designed and fitted by a specialist called prosthetist. After the amputation when swelling has gone and wound is healed, prosthetist will begin the process of fitting the artificial limb that involves measuring the stump and opposite limb, making plastic mold, socket, attaching the shaft, aligning the prosthesis. After few weeks, a physical therapist will train the patient how to use and take care of the artificial limb.

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