A large proportion of amputees experience the phenomenon of phantom limbs, they feel body parts that are no longer there. These limbs can itch, ache, and feel as if they are moving. Some scientists believe it has to do with a kind of neural map that the brain has of the body, which sends information to the rest of the brain about limbs regardless of their existence.
In many cases, the phantom limb aids in adaptation to a prosthesis, as it permits the person to experience proprioception of the prosthetic limb.
Lt. Col. Andrew Lourake sits in an Air Force C-20. Colonel Lourake underwent an above-the-knee amputation in June 2002 - Photo Credit: U.S. Air Force photo by Bobby Jones.
A prosthesis is an artificial extension that replaces a missing body part. It is part of the field of biomechatronics, the science of fusing mechanical devices with human muscle, skeleton, and nervous systems to assist or enhance motor control lost by trauma, disease, or defects.
Rudimentary prostheses have been used since antiquity, to replace missing limbs, teeth, etc.; their use and sophistication has increased over time. In addition to the standard artificial limb for every-day use, many amputees or congenital patients have special limbs and devices to aid in the participation of sports and recreational activities.
Though many prosthetics today are clearly made of artificial materials, the practice of cosmesis, the creation of life-like limbs made from silicone or PVC, has grown in popularity. Such prosthetics, such as artificial hands, can now be made to mimic the appearance of real hands, complete with freckles, veins, hair, fingerprints and even tattoos.
Prostheses and Prosthetics: Artificial Limbs News and Information
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