If you have had an amputation or were born with a missing limb, you may wish to be fitted with a prosthesis. There are many reasons you may be missing part or all of a limb, the most common being diabetes, vascular disease, cancer, trauma and congenital (birth defect).
No matter the cause of your limb absence, the solution is broadly similar. In simple terms, we will aim to provide a prosthesis that enables you to carry on with your normal day-to-day activities. Depending on the level of limb loss, your general health and fitness and your own expectations, this could range from running or other sports, to returning to employment, to walking a few kilometres, to simply being able to get around the house. Each person faces unique challenges and will be assessed on an individual basis; your Prosthetist will discuss your needs and expectations in detail so that we can provide the best solution for you.
We can make and fit a prosthesis for almost any level of limb absence, but the most common levels are as follows:
Click the links above for more information on each type of amputation.
For lower-limb amputations, the aim of treatment is to allow standing and walking, providing a stable base of support and conserving as much energy as possible. The use of high-tech materials such as carbon fibre and titanium allows us to make the prosthesis as light as possible, and modern components such as feet and knee joints provide a high degree of function. A modern prosthesis can provide much more than a simple ‘peg leg’, by using springs to store and release energy during walking, and pneumatic, hydraulic or electronic systems to control and stabilise the leg.
An upper-limb amputation provides a very different challenge, as the function of the human hand is much harder to replicate than the function of the foot. Modern technology can provide a high level of function with the use of electronic sensors and robotic hands. Often a person may simply wish to have a prosthetic arm that is cosmetically attractive and not as functional. There are also a wide variety of functional devices that can be used in place of a hand – such as a hook, tool holder, knife or steering wheel attachment. While they may look unusual, many people find the added function invaluable when performing certain tasks.
The construction of a prosthesis is fairly similar, no matter what the level; first a plaster cast is taken of the residual limb to allow a close-fitting socket to be made. The sockets are generally made from plastic (either resin with nylon, glass or carbon fibres for strength, or polypropylene); wood and metal sockets are rarely seen but are still available. Components are then assembled onto the socket to form the final prosthesis. Partial foot, partial hand and finger amputations are different; they also start with a cast but the socket is made from silicone rubber, a durable and flexible material that is very safe to wear directly on the skin. Coloured silicone is then used to build up a solid model of the hand or foot; it is possible to obtain a highly like-like appearance with silicone, complete with nails, blood vessels and even hair.
It is also possible to have a silicone cover made for other types of prosthesis if the appearance of the limb is important to you. Some people prefer to leave the components on show, or even to have the prosthesis made with bright colours or patterns. Because of the way the socket is made, any coloured or patterned stocking, sock or T-shirt can be used to give a unique finish to your limb.
Often when a person loses a limb, they require help in learning to adapt to their new situation. This may involve learning to walk with a prosthesis, physiotherapy to improve muscle strength, occupational therapy to learn to perform tasks with an upper-limb prosthesis (or with only one hand if you choose not to be fitted with a prosthesis), or counselling to deal with the emotional difficulties that follow what can be a very traumatic experience. APOS can help you with all these problems and more; we work closely with other members of the healthcare profession and can refer you on to other services that can provide specialist treatment.
We can also provide prostheses for specific activities such as sport or hobbies. For lower-limb amputees we offer running prostheses with ‘blade’ feet, limbs that are water-resistant for use when bathing or getting around at a swimming pool, or even a specialist limb for skiing that clips directly to the ski binding.