Prosthetic hands are artificial devices that are utilized to approximate the appearance and function of a natural hand. While many models have limited mobility, advances in technology have made it possible to create a prosthetic hand that is capable of gripping objects, holding pencils and even moving in a natural manner with the wrist and forearm. As with any type of prosthetic limb, an artificial hand is often customized to fit snugly on the wearer and provide service for a number of years.
Over the years, prosthetics have made it possible to develop artificial limbs that not only restore some degree of function for amputees but also resemble natural limbs more closely than before. This is especially true of the prosthetic hand. Earlier models were sometimes simple metallic designs that did not include individual digits. Instead, the hand was characterized by a claw-like design that made it possible to grip objects, but offered little more in the way of functionality. Models of this type were entirely functional, with no attempt to provide even a slight resemblance to a human hand.
Today, there are many prosthetic hand designs that offer a wider range of mobility and also provide a more natural appearance. Thanks to advancements with resins and other synthetic materials, it is now possible to cover the body of artificial hands with what appears to be human skin. Computer technology has also rendered the bulkier hydraulics of past decades obsolete, allowing the prosthetic hand to be contoured into a shape that is much more lifelike. Many models today are equipped with sensors that make it possible to establish a rudimentary biological connection with the wearer, a feature that can often help provide more effective control over the device.
Just as with prosthetic legs or a prosthetic foot, the basic design for a prosthetic hand is adapted for each patient. Doing so ensures that the device fits snugly and the sensor connection is easier to establish. A customized fit means the artificial hand is more likely to be in proportion to the remaining hand, creating a more uniform and natural appearance for the wearer. At the same time, customization makes it possible to approximate the natural skin tone of the wearer, making the device less detectable in a public setting.
While many prosthetic hand designs today focus on both function and appearance, it is possible to purchase hand prostheses that are enhanced to perform specific tasks. For example, the artificial hand may be configured to make it easier for the wearer to engage in activities such as rock climbing or using a hammer. As with other types of artificial limbs, it is not unusual for amputees to own more than one prosthetic hand, with one for social situations and the other used for practical applications.