Prosthetic limbs and body parts

Prosthetic limbs and body parts: what are prosthetics?

When a part of the body is lost due to injury or disease, it is sometimes possible to reconstruct the missing parts. Whenever possible our plastic surgeons at the Royal Free Hospital try to use the patient’s own tissues for reconstructive surgery. Doing this is commonly known as a transplant (and called autologous reconstruction by experts). But, if the missing parts are too large (eg a whole leg or arm) or too complex (eg a missing eye), then one alternative is to use an artificial (prosthetic) limb or body part to replace the missing parts.

This treatment area is called prosthetics. Almost any part of the body can be replaced with an artificial limb or alternative although the ability of a prosthetic body part (the prosthesis) to mimic the function and appearance of the missing part can vary a lot.

How are prosthetic limbs and body parts fitted to the patient?

After your tissues have healed, you are usually referred to the Royal Free London prosthetics department for fitting of an appropriate prosthesis, which can be attached to the body in a number of different ways depending your needs. This includes:

  1. Glue – for smaller prosthetics such as prosthetic noses, ears and eyes.
  2. Spectacles – for parts of the face, eyes and noses.
  3. Sockets and straps – for prosthetic limbs, arms and legs.
  4. Implants – for all types of prosthetics.

Who are prosthetic limbs and body parts best for?

Prosthetic reconstruction may be an option after loss of any part of the body. In most cases, no specialist surgery will be required after the initial operation to remove or deal with the diseased or injured part. Once wounds have healed, a prosthetic limb or body part can be fitted by our specialists.

Because of this ease, prosthesis may be more suitable for Royal Free London patients who are medically unfit or unwilling to undergo plastic surgery or lengthy general anaesthetic procedures to achieve a result.

For patients who experience problems with conventional methods of attachment (eg glues, straps, sockets), an alternative is to use a prosthetic implant that’s anchored in the bones.

We offer a wide range of prosthetic reconstruction services at the Royal Free Hospital and are now hoping to make implants available to more patients too. 

Find out more about prosthetic implants in the left hand navigation.