Activity-Specific Prostheses

​Activity or adaptive prostheses can describe many different sorts of devices. In upper extremity prosthetics there are adaptive terminal devices for everything from playing tennis to lifting weights. The introduction of on-board microprocessors to both upper and lower extremity components is another major advancement.


Custom Prostheses           

Sometimes people have their own ideas for an adaptive modification to their prosthesis that will meet their unique need. For example Aron Ralston, a mountaineer and rock climber who is also an upper extremity amputee, has worked with prosthetists on adaptive designs for mountaineering. Since losing his arm in a 2003 rock climbing accident, Aron has become the first person to solo climb all 59 of Colorado’s 14,000-foot peaks during the winter. He has also reached the summit of 23,000-foot Mount Aconcagua in Argentina, South America’s highest mountain.

There are many prosthetic users that channel their competitive energy into sports. From elite competitors to young, aspiring athletes, Hanger patients have excelled in a myriad of athletic endeavors including national and international competitions and the Paralympic Games. Others have achieved success and personal records at running tracks, basketball courts, golf courses and swimming pools around the world.

It is through the ever-expanding world of new prosthetic technologies that people are able to be active participants in life and to enjoy a renewed sense of self-confidence. Relatively few activities are completely “off limits” to the person who combines intense personal motivation with cutting-edge prosthetic technology.

A terminal device is the portion of an upper extremity prosthesis that acts as a hand.  Terminal devices provide most of the function of the prosthesis and can be disconnected at the wrist to allow the user to switch to a different device.

Terminal devices are operated by either a body-powered prosthesis or an externally powered prosthesis.  The passive hand is a device that does not open or close, but does restore a cosmetically pleasing appearance.  Other hands open and close by way of the body-powered harness system.       

Upper extremity patient, Aron Ralston, uses a custom prosthesis to climb.Electric Hands, Terminal Devices (TD), and Accessories       

Electric hands are probably the most popular as they allow the user to grasp items and also have a reasonably natural appearance.  The most advanced of these allows for individual digit articulation to which provides a more naturally conforming grasp pattern most like the human hand does.  Another option incorporates sensors in the fingers and hand so that grip strength can adjust automatically.

People who work with their hands and perform fine motor activities often prefer either myo-electrically controlled hooks, as well as body powered, cable operated terminal devices.  These devices can lift heavier items, have a variable grasp pattern, and are better for picking up and holding smaller objects like a screwdriver or key. Some models can even be used in wet environments.

There are many adaptive accessories and activity specific terminal devices that make it easier to hold everything from steering wheels to golf clubs, pool cues to fishing poles.

Electric Hands and TDs and adaptive accessories each have specific advantages. Ideally, upper extremity users will be best served with a quick disconnect wrist unit that allows them to switch between various devices.

Depending on your level of amputation, other components that will be important are wrist units, elbow units and shoulder units. Your UEPP specialist will guide you in making the right choices that will improve your function and independence. He or she will also give you the opportunity to talk to other prosthetic users through the AMPOWER program who will help mentor you as you learn to use your prosthesis to accomplish all of your goals.

Interested in learning more? Call 1-877-4HANGER or visit this page to request more information. ​