What does a Prosthetist do?

Hillary Flynn
Hillary Flynn

A prosthetist or orthotist is a health care worker who assists patients who have disabilities resulting in either partial or complete absence of a limb, or a severe impairment requiring a prosthetic or orthotic device. These disabilities may occur due to injury, or the patient may have suffered from a disabling disease or birth defect. A prosthesis is an artificial device that takes the place of a missing limb, returning mobility a patient lost from impairment. An orthotic is a device, such as a brace, that supports and strengthens an impaired limb.

A prosthetist is a health care worker who specializes in assisting patients with partial limbs or prosthetics.
A prosthetist is a health care worker who specializes in assisting patients with partial limbs or prosthetics.

A prosthetist first meets with patients to assess their individual needs. They will check each patient's muscle development, range of motion, joint stability, and overall condition of skin and health of the area where the prosthetic device will be attached. This helps to determine the best design and materials to use for creating a custom device for each individual patient. A custom design is necessary to ensure the most comfort, strength, and support for each specific case.

Prosthetists must take very accurate, very detailed measurements and impressions. They draft templates of their designs, then continue to fit and measure a patient as the device takes shape. The prosthetist builds and assembles each prosthetic, then works with the patient to make needed adjustments. When the device is completed, the prosthetist will then use splints or any needed compression devices to prepare the areas of attachment. The prosthetist must provide detailed instructions on operating the prosthesis, then the patient and prosthetist work together to create a care plan.

The job is not finished when the device is finally completed and working, however. Patients must continue to meet with the prosthetist for an ongoing period of time while they learn to use the prosthesis and work with the prosthetist to make adjustments and modifications as their gait improves or their muscles become stronger and movements change. The time between the initial meeting and full function may be lengthy, but it is very rewarding for both the patient and the prosthetist.

Advanced technology has made the prosthetic and orthotic professions an exiting and ever-expanding world of opportunity. Myoelectric joints and computer imaging are two of the advances researchers continue to explore. A myoelectric prosthesis uses electromyography (EMG) to allow a patient's muscles to send signals to the prosthetic device. This enables increased control and movement and as technology advances, so does the prosthetist's ability to give a patient the best range of motion and mobility possible.

Hillary Flynn
Hillary Flynn

Joining the wiseGEEK team has helped to satisfy Hillary’s insatiable curiosity for knowledge. She also manages an electronic publishing business that allows her to develop her skills in technical writing, graphic design, and business development. Hillary has a passion for satirical writing and enjoys traveling, especially to places of historical importance.

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Discussion Comments


Can anyone tell me what it takes to be a prosthetist? I'm sure that I need lots of special training, but is there a prosthetist school that I would attend and what kind of education would I need in preparation for attending? Also, are prosthetists considered full medical doctors or are they some kind of technician?

I am very interested in this kind of work but I have never know anyone who has done anything near this. I am pretty good with science and kind of mechanically inclined so I think I would be good at it. I also have an uncle who walks with a prosthetic leg so I have a little bit of experience in this area and can certainly empathize with people going through this difficult process. Thanks to anyone who can provide any information!


I think being a prosthetist would be an amazing job because it is a combination of sculpture and health science. On top of this it provides an incredible service to people, helping them get their bodies back to a reasonable level of normalcy. How many people can say that their jobs provide such a meaningful service? I know that I can't.


My brother went to Iraq and unfortunately came home without his left arm. This was obviously a tragedy and for a long time my brother was depressed, believing that his body was broken and that his life would always be something less.

After a frustrating amount of wait from the VA he was put in touch with a prosthetist who worked with him to get a correctly fitting prosthetic arm. The process took a while bu my brother now has a fully functioning prosthetic arm.

It took him some getting used to but he is now really good at using it and capable of doing almost anything that a person with two arms ca. And if he wears a long sleeve shirt you might never know he had a fake arm. I give that prosthetist a lot of credit for restoring my brother's quality of life. He was really down in the dumps there for a while but he now has a job, a place to live, a girlfriend and a new sense of home. What an amazing thing to be able to give a person.

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