Losing an arm or a hand can be a devastating experience. An upper extremity prosthetics can, however, help restore some level of function and independence.
This article will provide an introduction to upper extremity prosthetics, including the different types of prostheses available.
Overview and Description of Upper Extremity Prosthetics
An upper limb prosthesis is an artificial device that replaces an upper extremity that has been lost due to an upper limb amputation or congenital deficiency.
An upper extremity prosthesis can be utilized by people who have lost an arm, hand, finger(s), or part of any of these limbs. There are different types of upper extremity prostheses, which we will discuss in more detail later.
How Do Upper Extremity Prosthetics Work?
Upper extremity prosthetics generally work by being attached to the residual limb or stump. The prosthesis is then controlled either by the movement of the residual limb or by electrical signals from muscles in the residual limb.
Some upper extremity prosthetics are body-powered, which means that they are controlled by the body movement of the residual limb.
For example, a body-powered upper extremity prosthetics may have a cable that runs from the prosthesis to a harness that is worn by upper limb amputees. Amputees can then control the prosthesis by moving their upper body or residual limb, which in turn moves the cable and operates the prosthesis.
Other upper extremity prosthetics are electrically powered, which means that they are controlled by electrical signals from muscles in the residual limb.
For example, upper extremity amputees who use electrically powered prostheses may have sensors placed on their skin that pick up electrical signals from their muscles. These signals are then used to operate the prosthesis.
Relevance to Clinical Practice
Upper extremity prosthetics can be used by people of all ages who have suffered an upper limb loss. The process of being fitted for and learning to use an upper extremity prosthesis can be a long and difficult one, but the rewards can be great.
Post-Amputation Process and Prosthetic Evaluation
After upper limb amputation, the first step is to allow the residual limb time to heal. Once the residual limb has healed, you will be seen by a prosthetist for an evaluation.
During the evaluation, the prosthetist will assess your individual needs and goals. They will also take measurements of your residual limb and assess your range of motion and strength.
Based on this information, they will make recommendations for the type of upper extremity prosthesis that would be best for you.
Prosthetic Device Prescription and Fitting
Once you have been evaluated by a prosthetist, a prescription is written for your upper extremity prosthesis.
The next step is to be fitted for the prosthesis. This process generally takes place over the course of a few visits, during which time the prosthesis is customized to fit your individual needs.
Depending on the type of prosthetic device you’re having, upper limb amputees may undergo a pre-fitting, in which a temporary prosthesis is used to help you get used to the weight and feel of the device.
A final fitting is then done, during which time the prosthesis is adjusted to ensure a comfortable and secure fit.
Prosthetic Training and Follow-up Care
Once you have been fitted with your upper extremity prosthesis, you will need to undergo prosthetic training in order to learn how to use it.
Prosthetic training generally takes place over the course of a few weeks and is done by a prosthetist or other trained professional such as a physical therapist or occupational therapist.
During prosthetic training, you will learn how to put on and take off your upper extremity prosthetics, how to care for it, and how to use it for activities such as dressing, eating, and bathing.
You will also learn how to perform basic tasks such as picking up objects and how to use the prosthesis for more advanced tasks such as driving or playing sports.
You will also need to see your prosthetist on a regular basis for follow-up care. This is important to ensure that your prosthesis is fitting well and functioning properly.
Benefits of Upper Extremity Prosthetics
Having a prosthetic device for upper limb loss can offer a number of benefits, including:
Restored or improved function
With a prosthetic device, upper limb amputees can often regain some level of function in the affected limb. For example, an amputee who has lost an arm may be able to use a prosthetic device to perform activities such as brushing their hair or eating.
A prosthetic device can also help upper limb amputees regain some level of independence. For example, an amputee who has lost an arm may be able to use a prosthetic device to perform activities such as dressing themselves or cooking.
Upper limb prosthesis users may also find that their appearance is improved with a prosthesis. For example, an upper limb amputee who uses a prosthetic device that covers their residual limb may find that their clothing fits better and they feel more comfortable in social situations.
Improved psychological well-being
In addition to the physical benefits, upper limb prosthesis users may also find that their psychological well-being is improved with a prosthesis. For example, upper limb amputees who use a prosthesis may feel more confident and have an improved sense of self-esteem.
Different Amputation Levels for an Upper Extremity Prosthesis
There are a number of different upper extremity amputations. The level of amputation will determine the type of prosthesis that is required.
Partial Finger / Partial Thumb Amputations
This kind of upper limb amputation generally involves the loss of part of the finger or thumb.
Metacarpal Amputation (Partial Hand)
A metacarpal amputation is a type of upper limb amputation that involves the loss of part of the hand.
This kind of upper limb amputation involves the amputation of the hand at the wrist.
Transradial Amputation (Partial Arm)
A transradial amputation is a type of upper limb amputation that involves the loss of part of the arm at the radial level, or the area just below the elbow.
Transhumeral Amputation (Partial Arm)
A transhumeral amputation is a type of upper limb amputation that involves the loss of part of the arm at the humeral level, or the area just above the elbow.
This upper limb amputation involves the loss of the arm at the elbow.
This upper limb amputation involves the loss of the arm at the shoulder.
A forequarter amputation is a type of upper limb amputation that involves the loss of the arm and part of the shoulder.
For all levels of upper limb amputation mentioned above, a prosthetic device that covers the residual limb and is attached to the body with a strap can be used.
Different Prosthetic Components
Upper limb prosthetic devices are composed of a number of different parts, which can include:
The socket is the part of the prosthesis that fits over the residual limb and is the attachment point for the rest of the prosthesis. The socket is usually custom-made to fit the individual’s residual limb.
The liner is a soft, protective sleeve that is worn over the residual limb and inside the prosthetic socket. The liner helps to protect the residual limb and provides a comfortable interface between the limb and the socket.
The harness is a system of straps that is used to attach the prosthesis to the body. The harness helps to distribute the weight of the prosthesis and can be adjusted for comfort.
Prosthetic Terminal Device
The terminal device is the part of the prosthesis that is used for grasping or holding objects. There are a number of different types of terminal devices available, which can be selected based on the individual’s needs and preferences:
- Prosthetic hand
- Prosthetic arm
- Prosthetic hook
Types of Upper Extremity Prosthetics
There are a variety of upper extremity prostheses available, which can be categorized based on the amputation level, the type of terminal device, and the type of control system.
Myoelectric / Externally Powered Prostheses
Myoelectric devices are powered by a battery and use sensors to detect muscle contractions in the residual limb. The sensors translate the contractions into electrical signals, which are used to control the movement of the prosthesis.
Body-Powered / Internally Powered Prostheses
Body-powered upper extremity prostheses are powered by a system of cables and pulleys that are actuated by body movements. The cables are attached to a harness that is worn over the shoulder, and the movement of the body is used to control the movement of the prosthesis.
Passive Functional / Cosmetic Prostheses
Passive functional upper extremity prostheses are non-powered devices that are used for cosmetic purposes. These devices are usually lightweight and may include a passive hand or hook.
Partial Hand and Finger Prostheses
Partial hand and finger prostheses are devices that are used to replace missing fingers or parts of the hand. These devices can be either cosmetic or functional and can be made to match the individual’s skin tone.
Adaptive / Recreational Prostheses
Adaptive upper extremity prostheses are devices that are used for recreational activities, such as playing sports. An example of an adaptive prosthesis is a prosthetic device that is worn over the residual limb and attached to a bicycle handlebar.
Hybrid upper extremity prosthesis are devices that combine features from two or more of the above categories. For example, a hybrid prosthesis may be a myoelectric device with a body-powered control system.
Choosing an Upper Extremity Prosthesis
There are a number of factors that need to be considered when choosing an upper extremity prosthesis, which can include the following:
- The level of the amputation
- The type of activities that will be performed with the prosthesis
- The level of control that is needed
- The weight and size of the prosthesis
- The cosmetics of the prosthesis
- The cost of the prosthesis
The best way to choose an upper extremity prosthesis is to consult with a prosthetist, who can help to assess the individual’s needs and make recommendations.
Alltech Prosthetics: Your Prosthetic Partner in Texas
If you’re looking for prosthetic services in Fort Worth TX, Alltech Prosthetics is the company for you. Alltech Prosthetics is a full-service prosthetic facility that provides a wide range of upper extremity prosthetic devices.
At Alltech Prosthetics, our goal is to help our patients regain their independence and improve their quality of life. We offer a complete range of upper extremity prosthetic devices and services that are tailored to the individual’s needs.
Contact us today to schedule a consultation!
What is the most common upper extremity amputation?
The most common upper extremity amputation is an above-elbow amputation. This type of amputation is typically the result of an accident or trauma.
What are some of the common complications of upper extremity amputations?
Some of the common complications of upper extremity amputations include phantom limb pain, residual limb pain, and stump shrinkage.
How much does a full-arm prosthetic cost?
The cost of upper extremity prosthetics in general depends on a number of factors, such as the type of device and the materials used. For a full-arm prosthetic, in particular, the costs can range from $5,000 to $10,000.
The costs will also depend on your insurance coverage and the type of prosthetic facility you use. Alltech Prosthetics accepts most major insurance plans.
How long does it take to get a prosthetic arm?
The length of time it takes to get a prosthetic arm depends on the type of device and the individual’s needs. Generally, however, it takes about 6 to 8 weeks to get a prosthetic arm.
Can you sleep with a prosthetic arm on?
Yes, you can sleep with a prosthetic arm on. It is important to consult with your prosthetist, however, to ensure that the device is properly fitted and that there are no issues with skin irritation.
Is physical therapy needed for upper limb amputations?
Physical therapy is typically needed following an upper extremity amputation. Physical therapy can help to improve range of motion, strength, and function.
How do you care for an amputated upper limb?
The care of an amputated upper limb will depend on the type of amputation. In general, however, it is important to keep the area clean and dry. It is also important to consult with a physician or prosthetist for specific care instructions.