Upper limb amputations tend to be less common than lower limb amputations but can affect people of all ages. The most common cause of upper limb amputation in North America are:

  • Accidents
  • Infection or Burns
  • Tumors or Disease
  • Conditions present at birth

People with upper limb amputations have a number of choices to make regarding rehabilitation and your health care team can help you make those choices. There are many factors that determine how much of the limb is amputated. Generally the longer the remaining limb is, the more control you will have of your Prosthesis.

Levels of upper extremity amputations:

  • Forequarter – Amputation at the shoulder in which both the shoulder and blade and collar bone are removed
  • Shoulder Disarticulation – Amputation at the level of the shoulder, with the shoulder blade remaining.
  • Transhumeral (AE) – Amputation occurring in the upper arm from the elbow to the shoulder.
  • Elbow Disarticulation – Amputation occurring in the elbow, with the intact humerus is in place.
  • Transradial (BE) – Amputation occurring in the forearm, from the elbow to the wrist.
  • Wrist Disarticulation – Limb is amputated at the level of the wrist
  • Partial Hand – Limb is amputated through a partial segment of the hand.
  • Fingers – Amputation through a partial or whole digit.

Prosthetic design options for upper extremity amputations:

Passive: Design can be used for all levels of amputation. This design is static in nature and is used to replace a missing body segment. This application provides a psychological relief and promotes a healthy body image. It assists the wearer with activities such as holding, carrying and placing objects

Mechanical (Body Powered): Design uses body movement to activate the terminal device (Hand, Hook, TRS Prehensor). The prosthesis is operated through the use of cables and a body harness. Shoulder and arm movement operate the device.

Myoelectric (External Powered): A myoelectric system uses signals generated from existing muscle contractures on the residual limb to control the opening and closing of the terminal device (Hand, hook and or Elbow). Electrodes are located over the muscle belly incorporated into the socket. The system is powered by either an internal or external battery system.

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