Upper Limb Prostheses: Active vs. Passive

Whether you’re in the process of selecting your first prosthesis or it’s time to replace the one you have, it’s important to understand what options are available to you. Ranging from purely cosmetic to highly advanced in function, there are a plethora of artificial limbs designed to suit your needs (in fact, there are too many unique designs to list in a single article!). It’s a lot to consider; choosing the prosthesis that’s right for you can be an overwhelming decision. There’s plenty of support out there for amputees looking for a new prosthetic limb though, and Premier Prosthetics and Orthotics wants to be your closest ally. So, today we’ll be discussing prostheses with complexity in mind.
Prior to prosthetic prescription, your prosthetist will assess amputation level, residual limb condition, range of motion, and limb strength and sensation. Following their assessment (and provided your rehabilitation has been completed, if you are recovering from amputation), your prosthetist will go into detail on the range of options you have available to you. There’s no way to tell what may be right for you before that point, but all prostheses fall within two major categories: passive and active.

Passive Prostheses

A passive prosthesis is named so because it does not offer any mobile function. These largely serve cosmetic purposes, but can be used to steady yourself or objects that you’re carrying. Passive prostheses may be one solid piece or adjustable, allowing shoulder, elbow, wrist, and finger joints to be maneuvered manually. The two main advantages of passive prostheses are their relatively light weight design and inconspicuous appearance.

Active Prostheses

An active prosthesis allows the amputee to regain some of the movement they were capable of pre-amputation. These devices are more complex than passive prostheses and favor functionality over aesthetic. Active prostheses can vary, depending on the control mechanism and if they receive power from an external source. They can be further categorized into two main groups: body powered and externally powered.

Body Powered

Body-powered prostheses are controlled by the user’s own body movements, mechanically transmitted from their muscles via cable or strap. These prostheses are simpler to use, more durable, require less maintenance, and are often more economical. There are disadvantages to body-powered prostheses, however. The strength that is needed to operate the prosthesis may cause discomfort to the user, and good posture must be practiced to use it effectively. The user’s movement may also be restricted due to the snugly fit cable system.

Externally Powered

This is a block of text. Double-click this text to edit it.Externally-powered prostheses utilize a separate source of power to provide active movements to the user, notably without requiring the use of the user’s own residual muscles. They often use sensors to pick up electric signals from the residual muscles, a type of prosthesis known as myoelectric prostheses. These consist of many complex systems such as motors, batteries, switches, and many other electronic components. Since these prostheses are powered externally, their grasping strength is typically much greater than that of a body-powered prosthesis. They also do not require any additional straps to hold them in place or cable systems to enable movement and therefore are less restrictive and allow more freedom of movement to the user. Not only that, but externally powered prostheses can be operated with less strength. Their major drawbacks are their weight and cost, typically being much more expensive than other artificial limbs.

Hybrid Power and Activity-Specific Prostheses

Hybrid prostheses combine externally powered and body powered components in an effort to balance weight, cost, and ease of use. Prosthetists will typically prescribe hybrid prostheses to amputees with high levels of amputation who need multiple components to move at once.

Activity-specific prostheses are a large category of specially designed artificial limbs that are purpose built. The running blades sported by professional athletes are an example of activity-specific prostheses, but there are several different kinds of artificial limbs that are optimized for certain sports, manual labor, and precision applications.
Getting a new prosthesis can feel overwhelming at times, but Premier Prosthetics and Orthotics is here for you every step of the way, whether it’s your first fitting or your fifth. For any questions you have about which prosthesis will suit your needs, you can contact us at 314-262-8900, or send us an email at contactus@premierpando.com.
Getting a new prosthesis can feel overwhelming at times, but Premier Prosthetics and Orthotics is here for you every step of the way, whether it’s your first fitting or your fifth. For any questions you have about which prosthesis will suit your needs, you can contact us at,314-262-8900 or send us an email at contactus@premierpando.com

  

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