The word “prosthesis” refers to an artificial substitute that replaces a lost limb or body part. Prosthetics is the field of knowledge relating to prostheses. A prosthetist is a person skilled in prosthetics and practicing its application.
          The first step in manufacturing an artificial limb is fitting a sleeve to patient’s healed stump. A plaster cast is then made, from which an exact duplicate of the stump can be formed. The model is then used to build a socket into which the new limb is fitted. So begins the journey on the road to producing a fully functional limb to replace the one lost. A newer, more efficient fitting technique is the use of CAD/CAM programs to measure the stump. Then a machine carves out an exact replica of the person’s remnant limb.
       The hydraulic knee joint fitted to a thermoplastic socket that can be heat-molded and reshaped for the patient’s comfort. Comprehensive illustrated catalogs of such items are available from a variety of sources worldwide.
       In the final stages of limb, construction, fine adjustment are made to align the socket, knee, skin, and foot parts in order to ensure the most natural gait possible. Last of all, a foam cover is prepared. This serves to conceal the bones of the artificial limb. The cosmetic finish is made to match the remaining natural limb as closely as possible.
      After a patient achieves a reasonable degree of confidence, arrangements are made for the patient to consult with a visiting orthopedic surgeon at the limb center. Thus, a professional final check is carried out to ensure the optimum use of the new limb.
                                         ARTIFICIAL LIMB FOR CHILDREN AND ATHLETES
            I learned that not long ago a European manufacturer shipped a container of components of prosthetic limbs for athletes to Sydney, Australia, for use at the Paralympics. These were supplied to competitors free of charge, and prosthetists, including some from New Zealand were on hand to help the contestants during the games.
             Some of the limb parts had been developed especially for athletes. A foot- and-ankle component constructed of a special material that duplicates the natural spring in a human foot.
              Prostheses are also fitted to infants as young as six months, because it provides training for later use of an artificial hand or arm. Without such training, the youngster grows up to be one-arm dependent and can find it difficult to adjust to the use of two arms later in life