Understanding Artificial Limbs: 4 Classifications

Artificial limbs have come a long way from the peg legs and leather-strapped wood-carved limbs of old. Today, here at Meintjes and Neethling we provide patients with artificial arms (upper limbs) and artificial legs (lower limbs), as well as a range of orthotic and other support items.





Four of the Main Classifications for Artificial Limbs


1. Transtibial Prosthesis – Below the knee


Transtibial prostheses are artificial legs/limbs used by patients who have had their leg(s) amputated below the knee. In the case of transtibial prostheses the artificial limb is attached to the kneecap and provides an approximation of the lower leg. This makes these limbs fairly functional and easier to adjust to than prostheses which need to replace the knee joint as well.


2. Transfemoral Prosthesis – Upper and lower leg


Unlike the transtibial prosthesis, transfemoral prostheses are used in cases where the patient’s leg has been amputated above the knee. This means that the artificial leg needs to include both the upper and lower leg, as well as providing an artificial knee joint. One of the main challenges with these limbs is that they require substantially more energy to walk with than natural legs. However, with innovations such as carbon fibre and hydraulics these artificial limbs are becoming increasingly convenient for amputees.


3. Transradial Prosthesis – Below the elbow


For patients who have had an arm amputated below the elbow, we make use of transradial prostheses. These artificial arms are attached to the elbow and can be either purely cosmetic or functional. Two of the most popular functional varieties include body-powered and myoelectric arms.

Body-powered artificial arms make use of harnesses and cables that allow the patient to move their artificial limb with the rest of their body. For instance, moving the limb in relation to their shoulder, the cables will tense and slack to open and close the device at the end of the limb. Myoelectric limbs, on the other hand, are powered by batteries and make use of the body’s existing neuro-muscular system to manipulate the limb.


4. Transhumeral Prosthesis – Upper and lower arm


Much like the transfemoral prosthesis for above the knee amputations, transhumeral prostheses are used for patients with amputations above the elbow. These include upper and lower arms and an artificial elbow as part of the prosthesis. However, technological advancements, particularly in myoelectric artificial arms, are making these types of prostheses more convenient for amputees and more similar to natural arms than ever.


Get in touch with the professionals


This is just a brief overview of some of the options available to amputees today, to provide you with an idea of what is out there. To learn more about your options, or for a loved one who needs an artificial limb, contact us and we will do what we can to help you get the ideal artificial limb that suits your lifestyle.