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Definition of Prosthetic

  • Medical Author:
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Prosthetic: Referring to a prosthesis, an artificial substitute or replacement of a part of the body such as a tooth, eye, a facial bone, the palate, a hip, a knee or another joint, the leg, an arm, etc. A prosthesis is designed for functional or cosmetic reasons or both. Typical prostheses for joints are the hip, knee, elbow, ankle, and finger joints. Prosthetic implants can be parts of the joint such as a unilateral knee. Joint replacement and arthroplasty mean the same thing.

A prosthesis may be removable, as in the case of most prosthetic legs or a prosthetic breast form used after mastectomy. A person who uses a removable prosthesis, for example, an artificial hand, may want to have more than one available for different types of tasks. Other types of prosthetic devices are permanently implanted, like an artificial hip, testicle or tooth.

With advances in the biomedical sciences, a few experimental prostheses have been integrated with body tissues, including the nervous system. These highly advanced devices can respond to commands from the central nervous system, more closely approximating normal movement and utility.

An auditory prosthesis is a device that substitutes for or enhances the ability to hear. It is more commonly called a hearing aide.

The word "prosthesis" comes via New Latin from the Greek "prostithenai" meaning "to add to, or to put in addition." The plural of prosthesis is prostheses.

Reviewed on 12/11/2018

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