Amputation – a glossary of terms

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Abduction – Angling part of the body / prosthesis away from the body’s midline

Adduction – Angling part of the body / prosthesis towards the body’s midline

AFO (Ankle Foot Orthosis) – a brace that supports or controls the ankle

Alignment – The way the prosthesis is set up. This is concerned mainly with the angle of the socket and foot

Amputation – the loss or absence of all or part of a limb

Ankle disarticulation – Usually called a Symes amputation involving amputation through the ankle joint

Assistive equipment – Devices that assist in performance or mobility; for example ramps or bars, changes in furniture or other objects heights, environmental control units and specifically designed devices

Atrophy – When a muscle reduces in size through reduced use


Bilateral – Double amputation of both upper or lower limbs

Bionics – The application of engineering or mechanical principles to biological systems such as the human body

Bumper – A part installed into a prosthetic component to aid extension or resistance or to soften impact at the end of a range of motion.


Check socket – A temporary socket intended to test the fit and alignment of a prosthesis prior to a permanent prosthesis being made

Cosmesis – A cosmetic cover for the mechanical elements of prosthesis

Congenital limb deficiency – Absence of part or all of a limb at birth

Cover – Also referred to as the anatomical form, cosmesis or finish – this is the external shape and surface detail of prosthesis. The cover may be incredibly high definition and life-like, or it can be a basic anatomical shape


Digital amputation – Toe or finger amputation

Dorsiflexion – resultant posture of the foot when the toes are pulling up

Donning – Putting on a prosthesis or orthosis

Durometer – Evaluation of the hardness a material used as part of the Cover. Normally referring to polymers, elastomers or rubbers

Dynamic foot – A type of prosthetic foot that stores and releases walking energy to more realistically replicate the action of a natural foot to promote walking action – also referred to as an Energy Storing Foot


Endoskeletal prosthesis – Prosthetic device whereby the support offered to the body is internal, much like the human skeleton

Exoskeletal prosthesis – Prosthetic device whereby the support offered to the body is external


Femur – Thigh bone

Fibula – The thinner of the two bones in the shin.

Forequarter amputation – Amputation removing part of shoulder and the arm


Gait analysis – A review of a person’s walking pattern, especially when wearing a prosthesis


Hemipelvectomy – Amputation of the leg involving removal of part of the pelvis with the limb. This is also called a hindquarter amputation

Hip disarticulation – Amputation of the leg through the hip joint


Ischial tuberosity – A thick part of the pelvis in the buttocks, used to take weight in above knee prosthesis. The ischium (commonly called the sitting bone)


Knee disarticulation – Amputation through the knee joint


Liner – A removable sleeve that fits over the stump/residual limb. The Liner acts as a cushion and interface with the socket of the prosthesis.


Multiaxial foot – Prosthetic foot imitating ankle movement, and allowing better control and balance on uneven ground


Neuroma – Fibrous tissue around the end of a severed nerve


Oedema – When a body part suffers welling or produces excess fluid

Osseointegration – a direct connection between living bone and a load-bearing artificial implant, which has structural and functional benefits


Partial Foot – amputation where only part of the foot is removed

Patella – Kneecap

Patella tendon – A thick tendon between the kneecap and the top of the shin which takes weight well so is often used for support in below knee prostheses

Pylon – The pole in the prosthesis that gives it height

Plantarflexion – resultant posture of the foot where the toes point down

Phantom pain – Pain or discomfort in the absent limb after undergoing an amputation

Phantom sensation – Sensory awareness of the part of an amputated limb that is no longer present

Pistoning – The movement of the socket relative to the residual limb as a result of poor fit

Prosthesis – An artificial limb worn following amputation of a body part, either for cosmetic or functional

Prosthetist – A professional specialising in the design and fitting of artificial limbs

Patella tendon bearing (PTB) – a type of below knee prosthesis in which much of the weight is taken on the patella-tendon


Residual limb – an alternative way of describing the stump formed following part amputation of a limb

Rigid dressing – A hard fibreglass cover used to protect the stump and normally fitted shortly after the amputation


Sach Foot – A lightweight prosthetic foot that has a fixed ankle

Shoulder disarticulation – Amputation at the shoulder joint

Shrinker – A compression sock specifically for stumps that controls swelling after amputation surgery

Silicon/gel liner – A rubbery synthetic liner material that rolls onto the stump

Silicon suspension (SSS) – A gel liner that engages in a lock inside the prosthesis in order to aid suspension

Sleeve suspension – A sleeve that is rolled over a below the knee prosthesis and onto the thigh for suspension

Stump volume – the phrase referring to the size of the stump in relation to the socket of the prosthesis

Socket – The portion of the prosthesis that is custom made to accommodate the amputee’s residual limb

Socket relief – The space/void created in a prosthetic socket in order to reduce pressure over sensitive areas of the stump

Stump sock – A liner made specifically for stumps

Suspension – How the prosthesis is held on

Supracondylar prosthesis (PTS) – Similar to PTB but comes in and over the knee to hold it on

Symes amputation – Amputation of the foot through the ankle joint


Transmetatarsal-phalangeal amputation (TMP) – Amputation of the toes through the ball of the foot

Transmetatarsal amputation (TMT) – Amputation of the toes to just behind the ball of the foot

Transfemoral – An above knee amputation. Also referred to as an AK (above the knee) amputation

Transhumeral – An above elbow amputation

Transtibial – A below the knee amputation, also referred to as a ‘BK’ amputation

Transradial – A below the elbow amputation

Tibia – The larger of the two bones in the shin.


Ulcer – A lesion or opening of the skin

Unilateral – Affecting only one side


Volume loss – A description of the change in stump shape/size that can potentially lead to in an ill fitting prosthesis

Volume changes – Fluctuation in the size and shape of the stump, related to body fluid levels and caused by changes in the weather, health etc


Wrist disarticulation – Amputation through the wrist joint

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