AskDefine | Define prosthetics

Dictionary Definition

prosthetics n : the branch of medicine dealing with the production and use of artificial body parts

Extensive Definition

In medicine, a prosthesis is an artificial extension that replaces a missing body part. It is part of the field of biomechatronics, the science of fusing mechanical devices with human muscle, skeleton, and nervous systems to assist or enhance motor control lost by trauma, disease, or defect. Prostheses are typically used to replace parts lost by injury (traumatic) or missing from birth (congenital) or to supplement defective body parts. In addition to the standard artificial limb for every-day use, many amputees have special limbs and devices to aid in the participation of sports and recreational activities.

Mechanical and electronic components

In order for a robotic prosthetic limb to work, it must have several components to integrate it into the body's function:
Biosensors detect signals from the users nervous or muscular systems. It then relays this information to a controller located inside the device, and processes feedback from the limb and actuator (e.g., position, force) and sends it to the controller. Examples include wires that detect electrical activity on the skin, needle electrodes implanted in muscle, or solid-state electrode arrays with nerves growing through them.
Mechanical sensors process aspects affecting the device (e.g., limb position, applied force, load) and relay this information to the biosensor or controller. Examples: force meters and accelerometers.
The controller is connected to the user's nerve and muscular systems and the device itself. It sends intention commands from the user to the actuators of the device, and interprets feedback from the mechanical and biosensors to the user. The controller is also responsible for the monitoring and control of the movements of the device.
An actuator mimics the actions of a muscle in producing force and movement. Examples include a motor that aids or replaces original muscle tissue.


Prosthetics are clearly made of artificial materials, the practice of cosmesis, the creation of life-like limbs made from silicone or PVC, has grown in popularity. Such prosthetics, such as artificial hands, can now be made to mimic the appearance of real hands, complete with freckles, veins, hair, fingerprints and even tattoos. Custom-made cosmeses are generally more expensive (costing thousands of US dollars, depending on the level of detail), while standard cosmeses come ready-made in various sizes, though they are often not as realistic as their custom-made counterparts. Another option is the custom-made silicone cover, which can be made to match a person's skin tone but not details such as freckles or wrinkles. Cosmeses are attached to the body in any number of ways, using an adhesive, suction, form-fitting, stretchable skin, or a skin sleeve.

Prosthetic enhancement

Within science fiction, and, more recently, within the scientific community, there has been consideration given to using advanced prostheses to replace healthy body parts with artificial mechanisms and systems to improve function. The morality and desirability of such technologies is being debated. Body parts such as legs, arms, hands, feet, and others can be replaced.
The first experiment with a healthy individual appears to have been that by the British scientist Kevin Warwick. On 2002-03-14 an implant was interfaced directly into Warwick's nervous system. The electrode array, which contained around 100 electrodes, was placed in the median nerve. The signals produced were detailed enough that a robot arm was able to mimic the actions of Warwick's own arm and provide a form of touch feedback again via the implant.


External links

prosthetics in Breton: Protezenn (medisinerezh)
prosthetics in Danish: Protese
prosthetics in German: Prothese
prosthetics in Spanish: Prótesis
prosthetics in Esperanto: Proteziko
prosthetics in Persian: اندام‌سازی
prosthetics in French: Prothèse
prosthetics in Galician: Prótese (medicina)
prosthetics in Italian: Protesi
prosthetics in Hebrew: תותב
prosthetics in Latvian: Protēze
prosthetics in Dutch: Prothese
prosthetics in Japanese: 義肢
prosthetics in Norwegian: Protese
prosthetics in Polish: Proteza
prosthetics in Portuguese: Prótese
prosthetics in Romanian: Proteză
prosthetics in Russian: Протезирование
prosthetics in Finnish: Proteesi
prosthetics in Swedish: Protes
prosthetics in Thai: กายอุปกรณ์
prosthetics in Turkish: Protez
prosthetics in Chinese: 義肢

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

antiseptic surgery, aseptic surgery, chiroplasty, cryosurgery, dental surgery, electrosurgery, general surgery, heart surgery, major surgery, minor surgery, neurosurgery, open-heart surgery, operation, operative surgery, oral surgery, organ transplantation, orthopedic surgery, plastic surgery, radiosurgery, reconstructive surgery, reparative surgery, surgery, thoracic surgery, urological surgery, veterinary surgery
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