Prosthetic and Orthotic Devices

Prosthetic and Orthotic Devices

Carlo A. Frigo (Politecnico di Milano, Italy) and Esteban E. Pavan (Politecnico di Milano, Italy)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-4422-9.ch028
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Prostheses and orthoses are devices intended to improve motor function in amputated patients or patients with different kinds of motor disorders, respectively. Thanks to a multidisciplinary approach that has evolved along the years, prosthetics and orthotics are really two disciplines in which biomechanical and clinical aspects are integrated and take advantage of new materials and technologies. Artificial limb components, limb supporting braces, and many other devices are already available, and can provide effective solutions for locomotion, upper limb function, and posture. Within a clinical/theoretical framework, this chapter addresses the main principles of application and the technical issues related to the use of prostheses and orthoses. These include among others, problems of manufacturing, adaptation to the patient, functional assessment, and the role of advanced technologies. The aforementioned concepts are all to be considered if the objective is to obtain good functional results and to improve the quality of life of disabled people.
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Chapter Objectives

Prosthetics and Orthotics are two different disciplines that have as a common objective the recovery of human function through the use of special devices called, respectively, Prostheses and Orthoses. The main objectives of this chapter are:

  • To review the basic knowledge about prosthetic and orthotic devices with reference to one of the main application areas, that is motor rehabilitation;

  • To provide information about their characteristics and main component, namely the biomechanical principles related to designing and fitting these devices to patients; and

  • To address the new advances being derived from the advent of new materials and technologies.

The state-of-the-art includes basic concepts and applications that have evolved in the last sixty years, starting from the boost of investment and research that has come after the Second World War. Recent improvements are the result of an increased awareness of the problems of disability and handicap; they are continually improving quality of life and autonomy in persons with special needs.


A Comprehensive Definition Of Prosthetic And Orthotic Devices

Among the broad variety of devices that can help the recovering of a physiological function in people affected by motor disabilities are the ones that deal with the musculoskeletal system and which are called orthopedic prostheses and orthoses. A commonly accepted definition of prosthesis and orthosis is the following:

An orthopedic prosthesis is an internal or external device that replaces lost parts or functions of the neuroskeletomotor system. In contrast, an orthopedic orthosis is a device that augments a function of the skeletomotor system by controlling motion or altering the shape of body tissue (Lord & Turner-Smith, 2000).

Basically, an orthopedic prosthesis substitutes an anatomical part, while an orthosis helps an existing organ to perform better and to overcome its deficiency. Although the concept of prosthesis and orthosis includes devices that could be applied internally or externally to the human body, usually the term ‘prosthetics and orthotics’ refers to the discipline dealing with external appliances. These are, for instance, prostheses for amputees and orthoses for limbs and rachis, and not the artificial joints that are implanted inside the body and constitute a specific area called joint prosthetics or endoprosthetics.

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