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Upper Extremity Prosthetics

There are approximately 10,000 new upper extremity amputations in the United States every year. The two most common causes of upper extremity amputations are trauma (cut, tear, burn, freeze) and surgery (performed to remove a diseased or useless part of the body). It has been found that 75% of the upper extremity amputations in adults are caused due to some kind of trauma such as motor vehicle accident, machinery accident, gunshot wound or electrical burns.

While there is a large population of upper extremity amputees, only half are usually fit with a prosthesis. Westcoast Brace & Limb has had the opportunity to fit many upper extremity amputees. Our practitioners have an understanding of their unique needs and have extensive experience with a variety of upper extremity amputation levels and with the techniques and technology that help make successful upper extremity prosthetic users.

An upper extremity amputee has a variety of prosthetic options. Listed below are the different types available.

  • Partial Hand
  • Trans-radial
  • Elbow Disarticulation
  • Above the Elbow
  • Shoulder Disarticulation
  • Body Powered / Conventional
  • No Prosthesis

Amputation Levels

Body Powered / Conventional

A Body Powered or Conventional upper extremity prosthetic device is operated by a harness system. The harness system is controlled by specific body movements. The advantages of a conventional prosthesis is that the heavy duty construction of the device gives it a long life; it offers proprioception; it’s less expensive and lighter in weight than myoelectric devices; and there is a reduced cost and maintenance.

Myoelectric / External Power

A Myoelectric upper extremity prosthetic device is powered by a battery system and is controlled by EMG signals generated during muscle contractions. The advantages of a myoelectric prosthesis is that there is an unlimited functional envelope; it offers functional cosmetic restoration; it can increase a person’s grip force to 20-32 lbs; and the harness system is reduced or eliminated, which offers comfort and increased range of motion.

Passive Functional / Cosmetic

A Passive Functional or Cosmetic upper extremity prosthetic device is similar in appearance to the non-affected arm or hand and replaces what was lost. It provides simple aid in balancing and carrying. The advantages of this type of prosthesis is that they can be cosmetically appealing; lightweight; simple to use; there is little maintenance; they are great for partial hands and provides opposition.


A Hybrid upper extremity prosthetic device combines the use of body power and external power. The advantages of this system is that there is a greater functional envelope from the basic body powered device; it offers reduced weight from the myoelectric device; it offers the greater grip force like the myoelectric; the harness system is reduced; and the initial costs and maintenance costs are reduced.

Adaptive / Recreational

A Recreational or Adaptive upper extremity prosthetic device is customized for a specific function or recreational activity. There are various adaptive devices available for activities such as skiing, golf, fishing, construction work, shooting pool, playing guitar and so much more.

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