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  • Writer's pictureGainesville Prosthetics

Overview of General Prosthetic Terminology

Prosthetics are complicated, and effective communication between the patient and the prosthetist is essential in order for us to provide you with the best possible prosthesis. This post will cover general terminology that will likely come up at any given appointment with your prosthetist; we hope this information will make you feel more confident in communicating with your prosthetist, friends, family, acquaintances, and peers about your device.


The first terminology to cover is the different types of lower limb amputations. These include:

  • Hemipelvectomy - Partial or full removal of the pelvis

  • Hip Disarticulation - Amputation through the hip and full removal of the femur bone, identifiable as the large bone in your thigh

  • Transfemoral - Above Knee amputation through the femur bone

  • Knee Disarticulation - Amputation through the knee without cutting the femur bone

  • Transtibial - Below Knee amputation through the tibia and fibula bones

  • Ankle Disarticulation - Syme's amputation through the ankle without cutting the tibia and fibula bones

  • Partial foot - Full or partial amputation of the foot including individual toes






The components and accessories of a prosthesis can initially seem complex, but will very frequently be used in conversation with your prosthetist. They include:

  • Socket - The most important component of your prosthesis. The socket is the portion that your limb sits in while wearing your prosthesis, and it is custom-made to your exact measurements to fit your unique limb perfectly

  • Pylon - Connects the socket to the foot. Comes in multiple forms, such as directly integrated into the foot or knee.

  • Knee - A prosthetic knee for transfemoral patients. Comes in many different forms, such as microprocessor knees, polycentric, hydraulic, and power knees. Your prosthetist and physician will determine which knee is right for you.

  • Foot - A prosthetic foot for transfemoral and transtibial patients. Like knees, feet and ankles come in many different forms such as running feet, multi-axial, dynamic response, and microprocessor ankles. Your prosthetist and physician will determine which foot is right for you.

  • Covering & Skin - You may choose to receive a silicone or 3D printed cover for your prosthesis, most commonly to cover the foot and pylon.

  • Suspension - This refers to the system by which your prosthesis stays connected to your residual limb. Suspension systems include but are not limited to: pin or locking systems, vacuum systems, lanyard systems, suspension sleeves, and suction systems.

  • Liner - The interface between your skin and your socket. Often a cushioned gel-like material worn directly over the limb to provide comfort and aid in suspension such as in pin or locking systems

  • Shrinker - A breathable compression garment often made of cotton. Shrinkers function to reduce the swelling in your limb and are worn directly over the skin when you are not wearing your prosthesis.

  • Socks - Garments of various sizes and materials, often cotton or wool, that are worn with your prosthesis in order to help maintain proper fit. Socks come in different plys, most commonly 1, 3, and 5, and can be stacked as needed to accommodate volume changes throughout the day

  • Sheath - A soft, lightweight garment, also known as a "liner-liner" worn as an extra layer of comfort and protection beneath your liner

  • Suspension Sleeve - A gel-like sleeve worn over both the socket and the limb; provides suspension due to creating suction within the socket

  • Pin or Locking system - A suspension system that utilizes a liner with a pin on the bottom or distal end of the limb that connects and locks into an entry point in the bottom of the socket


Other miscellaneous but common terminology include:

  • Alignment - The position of the socket in relation to the foot or knee

  • Diagnostic/Check Socket - A clear plastic rough draft socket

  • Donning - Putting on a prosthesis or prosthetic component such as a liner

  • Doffing - Taking off a prosthesis or prosthetic component

  • Gait - Manner of walking or moving

  • Edema - Swelling, often in the residual limb

  • Residual limb - The part of the limb remaining after an amputation

  • Bilateral - Amputations on the left and right sides of the body

  • K-level - A rating system used by physicians and insurance companies to determine an individual's potential for rehabilitation and ambulation

  • Ambulation - The ability to move or walk independently, with or without assistive devices

  • Sound limb - Non-amputated limb


We hope that this post helps you feel more confident in both understanding the terms your prosthetist uses and effectively communicating your own thoughts, feelings, and concerns. Remember that you are never expected to know everything; always feel free to ask your prosthetist questions or to clarify any information.

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