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Partial hand loss comprises about 90 percent of all upper extremity amputations and may involve the loss of one or more digits. Prostheses for this level of limb absence have historically been simple opposition designs that utilize movements from the person’s remaining thumb or fingers for grasping against a fixed prosthetic platform. However, a series of recent technological advances have led to the development of smaller, more robust components that are steadily improving body-powered and electrically powered designs.
As with every upper limb amputation, or difference, there are six prosthetic options for partial hand prosthetic rehabilitation:
Some people decide not to wear a prosthesis, and we respect that decision. While it may be a cost-effective option, it's important to consider the potential for overusing your sound side, which significantly increases the risk of running into problems with body symmetry, alignment and posture. It's important to consult with an upper limb prosthetist before choosing this option.
Passive prostheses help provide function for everyday life but do not have active grasp and release. Passive options include cosmetic replica fingers, multi-positional finger joints and even ratcheting titanium fingers (with flexion at both joints) to provide functional enhancement. For thumb amputees, there are medium-duty and heavy-duty thumbs that can be locked into position for a secure grasp. Depending on personal preference, a passive partial hand prosthesis can be finished a variety of ways, from unique and contemporary colors or printed designs, to lifelike silicone that is matched to a patient’s skin tone.
There are three types of body-powered prostheses for partial hand amputees:
These types of prostheses can be very durable and generally have a high-tech appearance. One of the biggest functional benefits is that the force exerted by the prosthesis is directly controlled using a persons wrist, or the remaining portion of their hand, which makes movement and control feel very natural.
Electrically powered fingers have tiny motors inside each finger to create motion. They are controlled using sensing electrodes or resistors that detect movement of muscles in the remaining portion of the hand or wrist. The amount of strength the electric fingers exert is variable and controlled by the user to ensure that appropriate grip strength is applied for any given situation. As with passive prostheses, cosmetic gloves are available in many different flesh tones and custom silicone gloves can be made to closely match a person’s natural hand.
Activity-specific prostheses are designed for work, sports and hobbies where a residual hand or general prosthesis could be damaged or wouldn’t work as needed. Our prosthetists and technicians are the best in the world at creating activity-specific devices and have helped hundreds of amputees to achieve specific functional goals in everything from weight lifting to riding a mountain bike or even doing fine woodworking.
Hybrid prostheses combine elements of two or more prosthetic options with the aim of improving a person’s functional ability. Since every patient’s rehabilitation goals are unique, a hybrid solution may be considered to ensure they have the tools they need to regain their functionality.