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Prosthetic Care FAQs

What is prosthetics?

Prosthetics is the science and practice of evaluating, designing, fabricating, fitting and delivering a prosthesis or artificial limb. The profession is unique as it combines art with science, and rewarding because of the personal satisfaction in improving the quality of life for amputees. The field began to expand in the late 1950's after World War II and the need for prosthetic devices increased.

What is a prosthetist?

A prosthetist is an allied healthcare professional who is specifically educated and trained to manage comprehensive prosthetic patient care. This includes patient assessment, formation of a treatment plan, implementation of the treatment plan, follow-up and practice management.

What is a Certified Prosthetist (CP)?

ABC Certified Prosthetists are healthcare professionals that have demonstrated knowledge and competence in the field of prosthetics.  Their qualifications include a college degree in prosthetics and orthotics or in some cases, a college degree plus a prosthetic certificate program, followed by a yearlong formal residency program. These individuals are then eligible to sit for a three part series of rigorous examinations to test their knowledge and skills in this discipline. ABC Certified Prosthetists must also maintain their credential through continuing education. Individuals who meet these qualifications are certified by the American Board for Certification in Orthotics, Prosthetics and Pedorthics (ABC). Patients may also see the title (CPO), which means the practitioner is certified by ABC in both prosthetics and orthotics.

What does a Certified Prosthetist do?

An ABC Certified Prosthetist evaluates the needs and goals of individuals with amputations and limb deficiencies in order to design, make, fit and maintain prostheses (artificial limbs). Prosthetists are trained in the processes necessary to make all levels of prostheses for upper or lower limbs. They work closely with those who have amputations due to accidents, congenital problems or disabling diseases to restore physiological function and/or appearance. To provide this care effectively and comprehensively, ABC Certified Prosthetists must have specialized education and skills that enable them to match current and emerging prosthetic techniques and technology to their patients’ needs and goals.They form and implement a prosthetic treatment plan, provide follow-up care, and coordinate services with related medical professionals.

ABC Certified Prosthetists can assist patients in:

  • Walking safely and efficiently
  • Improving prosthetic functionality
  • Identifying environmental barriers including social, home and work reintegration
  • Improving overall balance
  • Accommodating special circulatory requirements
  • Enhancing the actions of limbs compromised as a result of accident, congenital deformity, neural condition or disease
How can patients find an ABC Certified Prosthetist?

ABC offers a free searchable database of its Certified Prosthetists (CPs) and accredited orthotic and prosthetic facilities to assist patients in finding a qualified professional and facility.

When considering a practitioner's credentials, patients should look for:

  • completion of a formal education, a structured residency program and clinical experience
  • passage of a series of written and hands on clinical examinations
  • completion of ongoing continuing education courses

Patients may also see the title (CPO), which means the practitioner is certified by ABC in both Prosthetics and Orthotics. A practitioner’s certification should always be verified, as this is an indication of qualifications. As a CP or CPO, practitioners are bound by ABC’s standards of ethics, making them accountable to the patient, the physician and the profession.

Do prosthetists specialize?

Prosthetists that make limb prostheses (CP’s or CPO’s) may have additional training or experience in other areas. Depending on the type of facility in which a prosthetist works, their clientele or perhaps their personal interest and self-study, some may spend the majority of their time working with certain kinds of prostheses (upper limb or lower limb), certain conditions (congenital limb deficiencies, trauma or amputations due to cancer), or with certain age groups (pediatrics or adult care). While some prosthetists work in hospitals, healthcare or rehab centers, many are affiliated with independent orthotic and prosthetic facilities.