Terminology Used Within The Amputee Community


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  These definitions were collected from various individuals on the Internet whose goal is to inform and educate. A special thanks to Wayne Renardson, Ralph Fowler, and Richard Mooney as well as a host of other individuals for their contributions.

AAOP (American Academy of Orthotists and Prosthetists): A professional society of Orthotists and Prosthetists. Founded November 1970.

ABC (Board-certified) Practitioners: American Board of Certification in Prosthetics. Incorporated August 1948.

Abduction: Motion of a body part away from the midline of the body.

Abrasion: Wearing away of the skin through rubbing or friction.

ACA: Amputee Coalition of America. Founded 1986. Incorporated in 1989.

Accessible: Easy to approach, enter, operate, participate in, and/or use safely and with dignity by a person with a disability (i.e., site, facility, work environment, service, or program.)

Acquired Amputation: Limbs surgically removed due to a disease or trauma, generally diabetic/vascular, cancer, bone infection, non-union of fractures, or accidents.

ADA: Americans with Disabilities Act. Enacted 1990.

Adduction: Motion of a body part toward the midline of the body.

Adherent Scar Tissue: Tissue stuck down, usually to bone.

AE: Above elbow amputation, also referred to as "transhumoral."

AK: Above knee amputation, also referred to as "transfemoral."

Alignment: Position of the prosthetic socket in relation to the foot and knee.

Amputation: Loss or absence of all or part of a limb.

Anterior: Front, as the front portion of a shoe or foot.

AOPA (American Orthotic and Prosthetic Association): A trade association of facilities (no individuals) that provide orthotic and prosthetic services. Founded 1917.

Architectural Barrier: Stairs, ramps, curbs or anything that obstructs or hinders walking or wheelchair mobility.

Assistive /Adaptive Equipment: Devices that assist in activities or mobility, including ramps, bars, changes in furniture heights, environmental control units and other devices.

BE: Below elbow amputation, also referred to as "transradial."

Bilateral Amputee: A double amputee. Both legs or both arms.

Biomechanics: Applying mechanical principles to the study of how the human body moves.

BK: Below knee amputation, also referred to as "transtibial."

BOC: Board for Orthotists/Prosthetists Certification.

Body Image: The awareness and perception of one's own body related to both appearance and function.

Check or Test Socket: A temporary socket, often transparent, made over the plaster model to aid in obtaining a proper fit.

Congenital Amputee: Individual born missing a limb. Technically, these individuals are not amputees, but are "limb-deficient."

Congenital Anomaly: A birth abnormality such as a missing limb (amelia) or deformed limb (phocomelia)

Contracture: Tightening of muscles around a joint that restricts the range of motion.

Cosmesis: Used to describe the outer, aesthetic covering of a prosthesis.

CP (Certified Prosthetist): A person who has passed certification standards as set by the American Board of Certification in Prosthetics.

CPO (Certified Prosthetist-Orthotist): A person who has passed certification standards as set by the American Board of Certification in Prosthetics and Orthotics.

Custom Fit: Fitting an individual with an item/device made from an image of the individual's anatomy, fabricated according to the needs of that individual.

DAE: Double (aka bilateral) above elbow amputation, also referred to as "bilateral transhumoral."

DAK: Double (aka bilateral) above knee amputation, also referred to as "bilateral transfemoral."

DBE: Double (aka bilateral) below elbow amputation, also referred to as "bilateral transradial."

DBK: Double (aka bilateral) below knee amputation, also referred to "bilateral transtibial."

Definitive, or "Permanent" Prosthesis: A replacement for a missing limb or part of a limb which meets accepted check-out standards for comfort, fit, alignment, function, appearance, and durability.

Devotee: A person (not an amputee) who exhibits an unusual and sometimes perverse fascination with amputees or those with limb differences.

Disarticulation: An amputation through a joint; commonly the hip, shoulder, knee, ankle, elbow, or wrist.

Distal: The end of the residual limb. Farther from the central portion of the body; opposite of proximal.

Donning and Doffing: Putting on and taking off a prosthesis.

Dorsiflexion: Pointing the toe/foot upward, toward the body.

Durometer: Different density or strength, and in the context means it will allow movement, bending, or flexion.

Early Prosthetic Fitting: A procedure in which a preparatory prosthesis is provided for the amputee immediately after removal of the sutures. (See IPOP)

ED (Elbow Disarticulation): An amputation at the elbow, through the elbow joint.

Edema: A local or generalized condition in which the body tissues contain an excess of fluid.

Elastic Wrap: Elasticized bandage used to prevent swelling and encourage shrinkage and maturation of the residual limb.

Endoskeletal Prosthesis: A prosthesis built more like a human skeleton, with support and components on the inside and a cosmetic cover on the outside.

Energy-storing Foot: A prosthetic foot designed with a flexible heel. It is designed with a spring that stores energy when weight is applied to it and releases energy when the amputee transfers weight to the other foot.

Exoskeletal Prosthesis: A prosthesis that is hollow on the inside with a hard outer surface to bear weight.

Extension Assist: A method of assisting the prosthetic to "kick forward" on the swing-through phase to help speed up the walking cycle.

Foot Function: Substituting use of the feet for the hands.

Forequarter Amputation (Interscapulthorasic): Amputation of the arm, shoulder, clavicle and scapula.

Functional: Designed with the primary goal of controlling an individual's anatomical function, such as providing support or stability, or assisting ambulation.

Gait Training: Learning how to walk with a prosthesis or prostheses.

HD (Hip Disarticulation): An amputation which removes the leg at the hip joint, leaving the pelvis intact.

HP (Hemipelvectomy): An amputation where approximately half of the pelvis is removed.

IAOP: International Association of Orthotics and Prosthetics. Established 1992.

IPOP (Immediate Post-Operative Prosthesis): A temporary prosthesis applied in the operating room immediately after the amputation.

Ischial Containment Socket: A derivative of the Narrow ML, as a special attempt made to form a little pocket for the ischium to sit in, incorporating a narrow medial-to-lateral dimension proximally.

Ischial Tuberosity: The large sitting bone; a bone that protrudes from the pelvis that may get sore when sitting on a hard surface for extended periods of time. An Ischial Containment (IC) socket cups this bone on the inside and back as well as the bottom. By cupping or containing this bone inside the socket, the socket tends not to shift laterally (outside) when weight is put on it, making walking more efficient.

KD (Knee Disarticulation): An amputation through the knee joint.

Kinesiology: The study of human motion.

L-Codes: Reimbursement codes used in the prosthetic/healthcare industry to identify what services and/or devices were provided.

Lateral: To the side, away from the mid-line of the body.

LE (Lower Extremity): Having to do with the lower part of the body. In reference to amputees, this means leg, ankle or foot amputations.

Liner: Suspension system used inside the socket to attach the prosthesis to the residual limb and provide additional comfort and protection of the residual limb. These liners may be made of silicone, pelite or gel substances.

Long's Line: First described by Ivan Long, it considers the location of the foot in relation to the head and distal end of the femur, and is used in alignment of the prosthesis. It is a straight line from the head of the femur, through the distal end of the femur, down to the center of the heel of the prosthetic foot.

Medial: Toward the midline of the body.

Modular Prosthesis: An artificial limb assembled from components or modules, usually of the endoskeletal type, where the supporting member, or pylon, is covered with a cosmetic covering (See "Cosmesis"), shaped and finished to resemble the natural limb.

Multiaxis Foot: Allows inversion, eversion, and rotation of the foot; is effective for walking on uneven surfaces.

Myoelectrics: Muscle electronics. This is a technology used in upper-extremity prosthetics to control the prosthesis via muscle contraction, using electrical signals from the muscles to power the prosthesis.

Myoplasty: Muscles anchored to opposing muscles.

Myodesis: Muscles anchored to the end of bone.

Neuroma: The end of a nerve left after amputation that continues to grow in a cauliflower shape. Neuromas can be troublesome, especially when they are in places where they are subject to pressure from the prosthesis socket.

Normal Shape/Normal Alignment (NSNA) - also known as a Narrow ML Socket: First described by Ivan Long, this socket more closely approximates the shape of the musculature of a residual limb, when compared to a quad socket. The medial/lateral measurement is tightened down to squeeze the residual limb, with most of the squeezing taking place on the outside or lateral side. This helps control the rotation of the socket by putting pressure along the fleshy area of the leg that can handle some side-to-side pressure.

Nylon Sheath: A sock interface worn close to the skin on the residual limb to add comfort and wick away perspiration.

Occupational Therapist: A therapist who teaches you how to perform activities of daily living such as feeding, grooming, bathing and dressing as independently as possible.

Orthosis: A device that is used to protect, support, or improve function of parts of the body that move. The singular for a supportive device. Orthoses is plural.

Orthotics: The profession of providing devices to support and straighten the body.

Partial Foot Amputation: An amputation on the front part of the foot, also called "Chopart Amputation."

Partial Suction: Usually refers to the socket of an above-the-knee prosthesis which has been modified to allow the wearing of prosthetic socks with the prosthesis.

Patella Tendon: A tendon located just below the kneecap.

Patellar Tendon Bearing (PTB) Socket: A prosthetic socket designed so that weight is carried on the patella tendon.

PFFD-Proximal Femoral Focal Deficiency: A congenital anomaly where the proximal femur is lacking in completeness.

Phantom Pain: Pain that seems to originate in the portion of the limb that was removed.

Phantom Sensation: The normal ghost image of the absent limb that may feel normal at times and at other times be uncomfortable or painful.

Physiatrist: A doctor of rehabilitation medicine who specializes in the comprehensive management of patients with impairments and disabilities arising from neuromuscular, musculo-skeletal and vascular disorders.

Physical Therapist: A therapist who is concerned with teaching motor skills such as transfers, gait training, and how to function with or without a prosthesis.

Pistoning: Refers to the residual limb slipping up and down inside the prosthetic socket while walking.

Plantar: Bottom of the foot.

Plantarflexed/ Plantarflexion: Means the toe is pointing down, toward the sole. Almost like pushing the gas pedal down and simulating that position or alignment.

Ply: Thickness of stump sock material. The higher the ply number, the thicker the sock.

Pneumatic/Hydraulic: Used in reference to knee joints that provide controlled changes in the speed of walking.

Posterior: The back side of the body.

Prehension: To hold, grasp or pinch.

Preparatory Prosthesis: The stage between a temporary and permanent prosthesis, using a transparent diagnostic test socket and special fitting techniques to accurately fit the prosthesis so problems can be eliminated before it is cloned for the permanent prosthesis.

Prosthesis: An artificial part of the body. In the case of amputees, usually an arm or a leg.

Prosthetics: The profession of providing cosmetic and/or functional restoration of missing human parts.

Prosthetist: A person involved in the science and art of prosthetics; one who designs and fits artificial limbs.

Proximal: Nearer to the central portion of the body; opposite of distal.

PTB: A patella-bearing below-the-knee prosthesis where weight is on the tendon below the kneecap.

Pylon: A rigid structure, usually tubular, between the socket or knee unit and the foot, that provides a weight-bearing support shaft in an endoskeletal prosthesis. This is referred to as a "pole" in a temporary prosthesis.

Quad Socket: A socket designed for the above-the-knee amputee that allows the muscles to function as much as possible. It's a four-sided, square-shaped container for the residual limb, developed in the 1960s, that was primarily ischial-supportive, not contained.

Ramus: The front middle portion of the pubic bone.

Range of Motion: The amount of movement a limb has in a specific direction at a specific joint, such as the hip or knee.

Rehabilitation: The process of restoring a person who has been debilitated (by a disease or injury) to a functional life.

Residual Limb: The portion of the arm or leg remaining after the amputation. Some people refer to it as a "stump."

Revision: Surgical modification of the residual limb.

Rigid Dressing: A plaster wrap over the stump, usually applied in the operating or recovery room immediately following surgery, for the purpose of controlling edema (swelling) and pain. It is preferable, but not necessary, that the rigid dressing be shaped in accordance with the basic biomechanical principles of socket design.

SACH Foot (Solid-Ankle Cushion Heel): A prosthetic foot made from dense foam or plastic material with a cushioned heel.

SD (Shoulder Disarticulation): Amputation through the shoulder joint.

Shock Pylon: A shock absorber used to cushion the impact of walking.

Shrinker: A prosthetic reducer made of elastic material and designed to help control swelling of the residual limb (edema).

Shuttle Lock: A mechanism that locks a pin attached to the distal end of a line, locking the residual limb into a socket.

Single Axis Foot: Used since the Civil War, this foot is based on an ankle hinge that provides dorsiflexion and plantarflexion, i.e., toe up and toe down.

Social Worker: A professional who assists you by helping to coordinate your discharge from the hospital and oversees appropriate contact with other services or organizations. The social worker will help to facilitate your re-entry into family and community life.

Soft Socket: Soft liner built into a prosthetic socket to provide cushioning or permit muscle function.

Split Hooks: Terminal devices with two hook-shaped fingers operated through the action of harness and cable systems.

Stance Control: Friction device with an adjustable brake mechanism to add stability to a prosthetic knee unit.

Stump: A word commonly used to refer to the residual limb.

Suction Socket: A socket designed to provide suspension by means of negative pressure vacuum in a socket. Achieved by forcing air out of the socket through a one-way valve when donning and using the socket.

Supercondular Suspension: A method of securing a prosthesis by clamping on the bony prominences above a joint, called "Condyles."

Suspension System: The method used to hold the prosthesis onto the body. Includes locking pin, TES belt, suspension sleeve, waist belt, supercondular, PTB and suction.

Swing Phase: Prosthesis moving from full flexion to full extension. Usually used in reference to prosthetic knee units.

Switch Control: Use of electric switches to control the current from a battery to operate an electric elbow, wrist rotator or terminal device.

Symes Amputation: An amputation through the ankle joint that retains the fatty heel pad.

Temporary Prosthesis: A prosthesis made soon after an amputation as an inexpensive way to help retrain a person to walk and balance while shrinking the residual limb.

Terminal Devices: Devices attached to the wrist unit of an upper extremity prosthesis that provides some aspect of the function (grasp, release, cosmesis, etc.).

TES Belt: A neoprene or Lycra suspension system for AK prostheses that has a ring that the prosthesis slides into. There is a neoprene belt that attaches around your waist by velcro/hook and loop fastener. Is used to give added suspension for a prosthesis and/or control rotation.

Therapeutic Recreation: Provides instruction in returning to leisure activities.

Transfers: Moving from one position to another (such as from sitting on a bed to sitting in a wheelchair).

Transtarsal Amputation: An amputation through the tarsal (tarsus) or foot bones.

Traumatic Amputation: An amputation which is the result of an injury.

UE (Upper Extremity): Having to do with the upper part of the body. In reference to amputees, this means arm, wrist or hand amputations.

Voluntary-closing Devices: Terminal devices that are closed by forces on a control cable; grasp is proportional to the amount of pull on the cable.

Voluntary-opening Devices: Terminal devices that are opened by body motion and closed by elastic bands or springs.

WD (Wrist Disarticulation): Amputation through the wrist.


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