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Four people sitting on a bench. A man with a below the knee prosthetic leg, a woman with a bebionic hand, a woman with a C-Leg prosthetic knee joint and a woman with a trans-tibial prosthesis.
What to know

Prosthetics

People with many different kinds of limb differences and limb losses rely on a prosthesis to support their mobility. Learn about the different types of prosthetics, how they work, and what they offer.

People with many different kinds of limb differences and limb losses rely on a prosthesis to support their mobility. Learn about the different types of prosthetics, how they work, and what they offer.

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About prostheses

What is a prosthetic device?

A prosthesis is an artificial device used to replace all or part of a missing limb. Prostheses are often used by someone who has experienced limb loss due to injury, accident, or illness, but they can also be used by someone with a congenital condition that results in a limb difference.

Unlike knee or hip replacements ("endoprostheses"), which are implanted in the patient's limb, prostheses are worn by the user by attaching it to their residual limb. While not everyone with a limb difference or limb loss needs a prosthesis, the right device can empower users in many different ways. Keep reading to learn more about how.

What they do

The purpose of a prosthesis

The basic purpose of a prosthetic device is to restore the functionality and mobility of a missing limb, making it easier to take part in daily activities, hobbies, work tasks, and more.

Prostheses can also improve users’ quality of life, empowering them to be as active as they want and are able to be – whether that means moving safely around their house or being a high-performance athlete. For people who have experienced a limb loss, a prosthetic device can also help reduce the emotional impact of an accident or injury.

Who they’re for

Types of prostheses

There are many types of prostheses, from simple devices like mechanical or body powered evices to complex, high-tech ones that mimic the movement and functionality of a natural limb. Here’s a quick overview of some of the most common prosthetics.

Prosthetic user with C-Leg is walking
Lower limb devices

Prosthetic legs

Prosthetic legs are used to replace missing feet, knees, and hips.

Two of the most common types (based on amputation level) are below-knee prostheses and above-knee prostheses. Prosthetic legs are generally often used by people who have lost a foot or leg in an accident or due to a medical condition like diabetes, peripheral artery disease (PAD), or cancer.

Closer look

Prosthetic legs

Prosthetic legs are one of the most common types of prosthetics. They come in many different forms, including both purely mechanical prostheses and computerized devices that can mimic the movement of a natural limb.

Below-knee prostheses are designed to replace the user’s missing foot. Above-knee prostheses can replace a missing foot, knee, or hip.

Advanced prosthetic legs are usually built from a combination of prosthetic components, like a foot prosthesis, adapter, prosthetic knee joint, and a socket. The right combination – like an Ottobock C-Leg or Genium X3 with a Taleo foot – can help users walk naturally again.

Prosthetic user with C-Leg is walking
The C-Leg 4 Microprocessor-Controlled Knee from Ottobock
Prosthetic knee

C-Leg 4

The C-Leg 4 is the world’s most trusted microprocessor knee. It offers exceptional, proven reliability and the performance users need to enjoy a healthy, active lifestyle.

The C-Leg 4 is the world’s most trusted microprocessor knee. It offers exceptional, proven reliability and the performance users need to enjoy a healthy, active lifestyle.

The Genium X3 Microprocessor-Controlled Knee from Ottobock
Prosthetic knee

Genium X3

Built on the breakthrough Genium platform, the Genium X3 offers a smooth, intuitive walking experience, and versatile support in everyday situations.

Built on the breakthrough Genium platform, the Genium X3 offers a smooth, intuitive walking experience, and versatile support in everyday situations.

Taleo prosthetic foot
Prosthetic foot

Taleo

The Taleo prosthetic foot is designed for active users who navigate varied indoor and outdoor environments and place a high value on effortless walking and the ability to go wherever life takes them.

The Taleo prosthetic foot is designed for active users who navigate varied indoor and outdoor environments and place a high value on effortless walking and the ability to go wherever life takes them.

Prosthetic hands & arms

Prosthetic arms can replace many different parts of the arm, including fingers, hands, elbows, and shoulders. These devices come in a wide variety of designs and functions.

Simple cosmetic hands are designed to look like a natural hand, without functioning like one. More advanced prosthetic hands and arms can be controlled in many different ways, including prosthetic devices powered by body movements and high-tech devices controlled by muscle signals (“myoelectric” devices like bebionic, Michelangelo, or VariPlus Speed Hand).

All of these prosthetics support users’ daily activities in different ways, from simply helping them look and feel normal to helping them perform activities of daily living (ADLs).

Two women in front of an easel. One is holding a pencil in her bebionic prosthetic hand and taking a selfie. The other woman is watching from the background.
bebionic prosthetic hand
Prosthetic hand

bebionic

Working intuitively and precisely, the bebionic prosthetic hand is transforming the lives and abilities of amputees around the world, from helping them perform simple tasks to restoring their control and self-esteem.

Working intuitively and precisely, the bebionic prosthetic hand is transforming the lives and abilities of amputees around the world, from helping them perform simple tasks to restoring their control and self-esteem.

Michelangelo prosthetic hand
Prosthetic hand

Michelangelo

Lightweight, powerful, and fast, the Michelangelo hand aims to restore numerous functions of the natural hand in a sophisticated and intelligent design.

Lightweight, powerful, and fast, the Michelangelo hand aims to restore numerous functions of the natural hand in a sophisticated and intelligent design.

MyoBock prosthetic hand
Prosthetic hand

VariPlus Sensor Hand

The VariPlus Sensor Hand combines a quick-disconnect wrist with the mechanical characteristics of the SensorHand Speed and the control of the System Electric Greifer DMC VariPlus.

The VariPlus Sensor Hand combines a quick-disconnect wrist with the mechanical characteristics of the SensorHand Speed and the control of the System Electric Greifer DMC VariPlus.

Finding the right fit

How to get a prosthetic device

With prosthetics, it’s important to keep in mind that there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Every prosthesis should be professionally selected and customized for the unique user, taking into account their individual needs and goals.

That process is a team effort, involving the user, their doctor or surgeon, a certified prosthetist-orthotist (O&P professional), and often a physical therapist or ergotherapist. For the best results, always work with an O&P professional: a clinical expert trained to fit prosthetic solutions for people with limb differences. An O&P professional will work with the user to determine their specific needs and goals, then recommend and fit a device that is the best match for their situation.

Even with an expert fitting, learning to use a prosthesis can be hard, especially at first. It takes time, practice, and determination to master a prosthetic device. However, with the right device and training, a prosthesis can transform a user’s day-to-day mobility, independence, and quality of life.

Want to connect with an O&P professional who can help you find the right prosthesis? Click below to find an Ottobock Care clinic near you.

An amputee is accompanied by a physical therapist as they trial a prosthetic foot in a rehabilitation center
An amputee is accompanied by a physical therapist as they trial a prosthetic foot in a rehabilitation center
Learn more

More information on prostheses

Ready to keep exploring? Discover the inspiration, community, and products you need for life with a prosthetic device.

A prosthetic hand and a human hand grasp each other with the little finger
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Join a platform where amputees and their loved ones can connect locally and globally with like-minded people about similar interests and challenges.