How are Prosthetics Made?

June 24, 2021
April 8, 2022

Titanium. Silicone. Carbon fiber. Great materials used for making cars and other machinery, right? Those are also some of the materials used to create prosthetic devices! But just how are prosthetics in Kansas City made?

As experienced prosthetists and orthotists in Kansas City, Horizon Orthotic and Prosthetic Experience is here to guide you through all of the different ways that prosthetics in Kansas City are made. We help you determine just what kind of artificial limb will get you back to doing what you love.

What is a prosthetic device?

Prosthetic devices, or artificial limbs, are medical devices that replace a particular body part. Some are strictly  cosmetic, but most prosthetic devices increase functionality and mobility for patients. Some patients are born without a limb. Others lost limbs because of an amputation due to trauma or disease. Regardless, prosthetic devices help improve the patients’ quality of life.

What is a prosthesis?

Nearly 2 million people in the United States alone use prosthetic devices, according to the Amputee Coalition, and the technology and materials used to create these devices continues to evolve.

Four types of prosthetic devices

We can break prosthetic devices down into four different categories, two for the upper body and two for the lower body.

Prosthetic devices for arms:

Arm prosthetics improve the functionality of the arm and hand, allowing movements like reaching, eating and even writing and painting. Many patients choose arm prosthetics to allow them to get back to doing things that they love, or even to help them return to work.

There are two common types of prosthetic arm devices, though the choice between the two depends on the type of amputation the patient received.

Transradial arm prosthetics

A transradial prosthesis replaces the arm from below the elbow and includes the hand. This is for an amputation through the radius and ulna bones (forearm). Based on your needs, you and your provider can discuss which transradial prosthetic design would benefit you most. The two main options you can choose from include:

  1. Cable-operated: With cable-operated prosthetics, we attach a harness and cable around the opposite shoulder of the residual limb. This is a very durable and functional device that is mechanically driven.
  2. Myoelectric: Myoelectric prosthetics use electrodes to sense when the muscles in the upper arm move. This causes the artificial hand to open and close. This is an electrically driven device that often requires no cable systems.

Transhumeral arm prosthetics

A transhumeral prosthesis replaces the arm from above the elbow but below the shoulder.  This is for an amputation through the humerus bone (upper arm). Keep in mind that these devices are more difficult to build. Think of it this way: the elbow joint can flex (bending the arm toward the elbow), extend (stretching the arm out), and rotate (twisting the arm back and forth). That is a lot of movement for one joint. Because of this, replicating the complexities of the elbow requires extreme care and years of experience.

Prosthetic devices for legs:

We design lower extremity prostheses  to help patients with an amputation of the leg to restore their functionality. The largest benefit comes from the ability to walk. For many people, walking on their own is key to making the most out of their lives. That independence may be the difference between a positive outlook and a negative one.

Not only can patients gain walking ability, depending on the prosthetic device, many patients excel to the point where they can also ride a bike, swim, run, and participate in sports.

Transtibial prosthetics

A transtibial prosthetic device, or below-knee prosthetic, is for an amputation through the tibia and fibula (lower leg). Since these patients still have their anatomical knee, it makes adapting to walking with a prosthesis much easier.

Transfemoral prosthetics

A transfemoral prosthetic device, or above-knee prosthetic, is an amputation through the femur bone (thigh). In this case, a patient no longer has the knee joint, making the design and build of the device more difficult. However, the clinical staff at HOPE KC has the most advanced technology available today.  This technology includes incorporating computer chips into the mechanical knee joint to process what is happening while walking.

Prosthetic device materials

Artificial limbs have been around for centuries. According to the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, the earliest references to prosthetic devices are found in books from the late 1500s and their use dates back even further to the ancient Egyptians. Materials used in these devices were often whatever was available (wood, leather and metal), but those days are long in the past.

Most prosthetics in Kansas City today are made with a variety of plastics, which keeps the limb lightweight. However, the traditional materials of wood, leather and metal play their parts as well. There are even options of using ultra lightweight carbon fiber for your prosthetic devices, while titanium provides a sturdy and lightweight alternative to stainless steel options.

Your Guide to Getting Artificial Limbs

Traditional vs. 3D printed prosthetic devices

As you and your physician are making a prosthetic device decision, a 3D-printed device may come up as an option.

Both traditional and 3D-printed devices feature some kind of plastic, but the plastics used for each do vary. We often make traditional devices with plastic such as polypropylene, polyethylene, and acrylic resins. On the other hand, 3D we make prosthetic devices with acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) plastics or bridge nylon.

What you should know about 3D printing in prosthetics

There are a variety of reasons why someone may choose a 3D-printed prosthesis. First, 3D printing is often cheaper than a traditional device, which is helpful for those who are on a budget or don’t have enough coverage from their insurance company (we will discuss this in more detail in the following section).

Second, 3D printing is a faster process that allows you to see customizations through a digital image before the prosthesis creation. This works great for people who want their device right away. You can also change the appearance simply by tweaking the model.

Third, 3D printing may be a good option for children and adolescents. Since they are constantly growing, it may be easier to have a fast-made prosthesis that is cheaper to switch out when needed.

Complete customization

At HOPE KC, we create custom prosthetics in Kansas City and surrounding areas to fit our clients’ individual needs. That commitment to fulfilling needs goes beyond the function of your device.

We offer a variety of aesthetic additions to your device to ensure your individuality is displayed on your new prosthetic. If you want to support the Chiefs or Royals on your new device, our in-house technicians will deck out your prosthetic to your exact specifications.

There are no cookie-cutter solutions to prosthetics. Every device is different, because clients have individual mobility needs and unique personalities. We can even create personalized designs, just like a tattoo that might honor a loved one who has passed away.

And for days where you prefer a different look, HOPE KC offers prosthetic covers from ALLELES. These covers are perfect for accessorizing or changing up the look of your prosthetic device to keep things fresh.

HOPE KC is here to build the best prosthetics in Kansas City

If you’re looking into prosthetics in the Kansas City area, allow us at Horizon Orthotic and Prosthetic Experience to be your guide. With six different locations in the Kansas City metro area and other Missouri cities, we are able to help you achieve your goals. We make our customized prosthetics with the patient’s specific needs in mind.

We give our patients HOPE by providing them with the tools to have their dream lifestyle.

Contact us for more information on how to get a prosthesis in Kansas City.  

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