Prosthetics

What is a prosthesis?

A prosthesis is a tool that is used to allow a person to make up for the loss of a body part. For example, after a leg amputation an artificial leg, or prosthesis, can be made. This can allow the person to walk. 
 

Who needs a prosthesis?

Amputations can be required to treat a number of problems. These can include severe injury, infection, diabetes, cancer and vascular disease. Sometimes a person has a severe condition that results in a wound that cannot heal, or an infection that cannot be controlled. This can make the person very sick, cause pain, and limit the ability to move around. Sometimes an amputation is the only way to solve the problem.
 

Who can have a prosthesis?

Most people with an amputation are able to be fit for a prosthesis. However, there are factors that might prevent someone from being able to wear a prosthesis. These factors could include a person’s size and shape, the function of other limbs, and other medical problems. A prosthesis can rub and irritate the skin of the person wearing it. A person must have healthy skin and muscles in order to safely use a prosthesis.
 

What types of prostheses are there?

There are many different types of prostheses. A prosthesis can be a filler in a shoe for a toe or partial foot amputation, or a complete prosthetic leg for an above-the-knee amputation. Prostheses are made from many different materials. They have many ways of attaching to a person’s body. Designs range from simple to complex and can be tailored to the needs of the individual. A person’s first prosthesis will often be of a simple “temporary” design. This can allow the person to get familiar with the use of a prosthesis before moving on to any more complex designs.
 

How can I get a prosthesis?

In general, a doctor will recommend the type of prosthesis best suited for each person. A prosthetist, someone trained in the design, manufacturing and fit of a prosthesis, will then work with you to customize the right prosthesis. This starts with measurements and the manufacture of a cast or mold of the limb that needs the prosthesis. Once the prosthesis is made, the prosthetist will work with you to fine-tune the fit and maximize the comfort and function of the prosthesis.
 

How do I know if a prosthesis is right for me?

Making the decision to have an amputation, and possibly a prosthesis, can be very difficult. Talk to your doctor or other health care provider. It may be appropriate for you meet with a prosthetist. There may also be support groups or other people where you live that could help you learn more about what life is like with an amputation and prosthesis. Recently, modern prosthesis designs have allowed amputees more active lifestyles, including participation in sports.
 
 
The American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society (AOFAS) offers information on this site as an educational service. The content of FootCareMD, including text, images and graphics, is for informational purposes only. The content is not intended to substitute for professional medical advice, diagnoses or treatments. If you need medical advice, use the "Find an Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Surgeon" tool at the top of this page or contact your primary doctor.
​​