Amputation of a limb is always a traumatic event and the loss of an arm even more so. Our arms and hands define almost all the movements required for living our lives in a productive and independent manner. However, with the advent of modern prosthetics, the lives of amputees need not be very, limited and burdened by interdependence on others.
History of Prosthetics
The history of prosthetics is very old, ancient models having been carved out of wood and iron; who can forget Captain Cook’s wooden leg! However, those materials afforded limited function and mobility. The advent of modern science has made great leaps in this field possible and nowadays it is possible to replicate almost all movements of a normal arm through modern prosthetics.
Types of arm amputations
Transhumoral (above the elbow) amputation. It is performed at the elbow or above it.Transradial (below the elbow) amputation. It is performed below the elbow.
Types of arm prosthetics
Arm prosthetics may be externally powered (myoelectric), or body-powered. Some even make use of both and are called hybrid. Electrically powered prosthetics make use of the body’s electric impulses to gather information about the movement required, much in the same way that a real arm works.
Body powered system uses a harness to allow the user to grasp, lock and flex. This system is cheaper than the electrically powered system. However the electric system depends on extreme fine tuning of the device in order to interpret electric signals correctly and might not be a feasible option for everyone. A hybrid system containing elements of both is generally used for greater manoeuvrability.
Another kind of arm prosthesis is passive prosthesis. This isn’t a true functioning model, but one that is designed to imitate the amputee’s real arm. It helps with balance and support of the body. Sometimes its equipped with moveable joints that can be fixed into position to help grasp or carry an object.
Activity specific prosthetics are designed for some particular activity or support where it is feared that the actual prosthetic might be damaged or might not serve the purpose.
Components of an arm prosthetic
Following are some key components of an arm prosthetic.
A socket is an extremely important part of the prosthesis. It has to have a perfect fit into the stump in order to not a base and injure the tissues of the stump. An exact fit is obtained by casting plaster of Paris model and designing the prosthesis with the exact same measurements. Nowadays 3-D printers are also being used for the purpose. The stump is to be allowed to heal completely before the socket can be fitted.
The limb is made of lightweight and durable material.
The wrist and the hand. The simplest kinds are cosmetic replicas.
The Suspension System
It is in place to ensure that the socket and arm stay in place. It might be a sleeve, a harness, or a suspension socket.
The Control System
The control system might be body powered or myoelectric. Body powered works through cables and harness and myoelectric works through electrodes.
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