Pediatric Prosthetics 101 – What You Need to Know

If you find out that your child has a limb difference or needs an amputation, it can be a difficult time for the whole family. As a parent, you want what’s best for your child and are probably worried about how this will affect their life.

A prosthesis has the ability to restore your child’s mobility and give them the freedom to live their life to the fullest. But, there is an adjustment period, and your little one will need help and support to get used to their new artificial limb.

Here, we’ve answered some of the most frequently asked questions about pediatric prosthetics. Keep reading to learn more about the pediatric prosthesis process, if it is the right choice for your child, and how you can help your child transition to their new prosthetic.

What Are the Types of Pediatric Prosthesis?

Prostheses are custom-made artificial limbs that are designed to accommodate the needs of your child. The main purpose of a prosthesis is to improve the mobility and functionality of an upper or lower extremity. There are two major types of pediatric prostheses: upper extremity prostheses and lower extremity prostheses.

Upper Extremity Prosthesis

Whether your child needs a prosthetic limb because of congenital upper limb deficiencies or upper extremity amputation due to an accident or illness, upper limb prostheses can help them regain several functions of their fingers and hands.

Depending on where they are fitted and how they work, upper extremity prostheses are further classified into:

Transradial Prosthesis

A trans-radial prosthetic encompasses both the forearm and the wrist. It is fitted on the arm below the elbow.

Transhumeral Prosthesis

Transhumeral prosthesis are one of the hardest prosthesis to attach because it sits on the arm above the elbow. It still lacks the full functionality required to mimic someone’s natural movements—though there have been several advancements to improve this aspect.

One of the most common attachment methods for a transhumeral prosthetic is to use a suction system. Another option to affix the prosthetic limb is the roll-on linear system.

Passive Prosthesis

This prosthesis is often prescribed as the first prosthesis for infants. Its main function is to enhance the cosmetic appearance of a limb deficiency. Though passive prostheses can’t aid with active motion, they still improve functionality by creating a surface to stabilize objects.

Body-Powered Prosthesis

Cables and harnesses are used to direct the movement of a body-powered prosthesis. Patients use motion from other parts of their body to mechanically control their new limb.

Myoelectric Prostheses

These battery-powered prostheses get their cues from the electrical signals sent from the patient’s muscle movements.

Lower Extremity Prostheses

Based on your child’s amputation and activity level, there are a wide variety of lower extremity prosthetic components and designs you can choose from.

The first component is the socket, the part of the prosthesis that covers the residual limb. You can find a range of socket designs that can be customized to meet your child’s comfort and functionality needs.

Another aspect you need to pay attention to is suspension. This refers to how the prosthesis stays on your child’s body. From pin locking to lanyard and suction, suspension of lower limb prostheses can vary based on your child’s size, weight, and daily activity level.

If your child requires a prosthetic two, you generally have two options—microprocessor and non-microprocessor. A microprocessor knee joint is computerized, battery-powered, and uses sophisticated technology to enhance your mobility and the way you walk. Non-microprocessor knee joints rely on well-designed mechanical components to ensure safety and stability while walking and standing.

How to Choose the Right Prosthesis for Your Child?

Whether or not your child chooses to wear a prosthetic device will depend on various physical and environmental factors, including age, level of mobility, and how often they will wear it. For example, selecting the right prosthetic foot depends on your child’s age, size, and level of activity.

Most children with lower-limb differences use their prostheses every day. In contrast, children with prosthetic upper limbs may choose not to wear them only when doing a particular activity such as playing a sport or a musical instrument. In this case, the upper limb prosthesis can be customized to suit the activity.

Most pediatricians recommend that infants get fitted with prostheses as early as 9 to 12 months old. At this stage, they are usually given passive prosthetic limbs. This will allow them to get used to their new limb and make the transition process easier.

Starting from around age two, the child may benefit from activity-specific prosthetic attachments for sports and other hobbies. Myoelectric limbs only become a realistic option from around age three or four.

It is important to discuss your child’s needs and goals with your pediatrician and an experienced prosthetic provider so they can help you find the right prosthetic device.

How Are Pediatric Prosthetics Different from Adult Prosthetics?

Fitting children with prosthetic limbs is significantly different from helping adults in the same situation. Unlike adults, children don’t yet have the experience, emotional maturity, and physical strength needed to respond to the transition in the same way.

From the assessment to fitting and review appointments, children require a team of pediatricians, physical therapists, prosthetic specialists, and other caregivers to provide them with the sensitive and customized care they deserve during the process.

Another major difference between prosthetic limbs for children and adults is that children will have to replace their current prosthetic limbs every 18 to 26 months. This is essential as children require prostheses that fit them properly and support them as they grow and develop fine motor skills.

At FIT Prosthetics, we have extensive experience working with pediatric prosthetics, and you can rely on us to always ensure your child is properly equipped.

How to Help Children Adjust to Their New Prostheses?

Stay Informed and Prepared

First, you need to take time to prepare your child and yourself for the changes that are about to come. Read up on limb differences and prosthetic limb care so you can be a source of support and knowledge for your kid on this journey.

Talk to the prosthetist working with your child and find out about all your options and how you can emotionally and physically support your child through this transition. They will also be able to brief you on the latest development in prosthetics and direct you towards the perfect option for your child.

Keep Children in the Loop

The whole process can be a lot scarier for your child when they don’t understand what’s happening. As you will both be making several trips to and from your prosthetist’s office for years to come, it is best to explain to them what’s happening and what they can expect in the future. This is more so important for older children and teenagers.

Better Communication

There will be an adjustment period before your children get used to their new limbs. Work with your children and their rehabilitation team to better understand how to strap on, take off, and care for the prostheses. Don’t forget to ask your prosthetist to teach you to recognize the signs of a poor fit so you can get your child’s prosthesis adjusted promptly.

Your child will have many questions about wearing a prosthetic. Be open and communicative and answer them honestly. Find support groups for you and your child where you can meet people who’ve had similar experiences. Moreover, interacting with other kids who have prosthetic limbs will help your child find the confidence and peer support they need to thrive.

Also, communicate with friends, family, teachers to help them better understand and cater to your child’s needs.

Teach Your Child Proper Limb and Prosthetic Care

Teaching your child how to care for their prosthetic limb will make them feel like it belongs to them instead of something they are forced to wear. It will also help them feel like they have some control over the situation and let them be more independent. Instruct your kids to:

●      Wash their limbs frequently and thoroughly. It is also important to pat it completely dry to avoid infections.

●      Self-inspect regularly for redness and any other signs of infection.

●      Clean every part of the prosthesis that comes in contact with their skin.

●      Check their prosthetic daily to ensure it is a proper fit.

●      Always have emergency supplies like extra socks on hand.

At FIT Prosthetics, we understand how difficult it can be to support your child during their transition to their new normal. But, you don’t have to do it alone—our skilled and compassionate staff will be there for your child from the initial consultation to the end of their rehabilitation. We provide a wide range of services to cater to your kid’s specific needs, so contact us today.