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Prosthetic Limb Categories and Why They Should Be Part of Your Team Discussions.

In case you did not already know, prosthetic limbs are designed to carry specific ranges of appropriate weights. For example, one prosthetic foot may have multiple different categories that are designed to carry particular weights of individuals. Heavier individuals will require stiffer components to cushion the load while lighter individuals will need less resistant devices to allow them to function correctly during ambulation or high level activities. Simply weighing the individual will not provide enough information required to order the correct category. It is important to ask the individual with limb loss if they are currently at their "typical" weight. Recent prolonged hospitalizations may result in decreased weight which the individual may gain back quickly after the prosthesis is ordered and fit. On the other hand, individuals may be in the process of losing weight and are not yet at a stable weight necessary to determine the appropriate category. Also, individuals may participate in a variety of activities that require them to carry high loads and/or navigate uneven terrain which might require a category not congruent with their weight class only. For example, if a patient plans to use this prosthesis to participate in Olympic weight lifting activities, then they plan to be using the limb at higher loads than their body weight alone and should increase the category of the prosthesis accordingly. Also, individuals returning to active duty military status anticipate carrying heavy loads over long distances and should plan for that when ordering the device used during deployment. In the past, I neglected to take into consideration the muscle hypertrophy of an individual with limb loss during a deployment which resulted in the breaking of his lower category prosthesis while overseas. No bueno! Learn from me: complete an appropriate evaluation to include individual activities and weight status, and share this information with the prosthetist and the patient when choosing the best prosthesis for the team!

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