Amputee Terminology

Written by Liv Leigh

Colorado-based, Capetownian Amputee and Bombing Survivor, Graphic Artist, Industrial Designer, and BioCAD 3D printing engineer.

Featured in Read Stuff

Hey lovely people! As an amputee, I'm very used to the terminology that goes with this life but I realized that most other people aren't. So, if you're interested in learning some amputee terminology, you can read them here or watch the video below.

Check out all the terminology or watch my video below!

BK (Below Knee) – also called a transtibial amputation

AK (above-the-knee) – A specific level of amputation—also known as transfemoral.

AE (above-the-elbow) – A specific level of amputation—also known as transhumeral.

BE (below-the-elbow) – also known as transradial.

Bilateral amputee – someone who is missing both arms or both legs.

Digital amputation – Amputation of a toe or finger.

Gel liner – this is what rolls directly onto your limb.  Needs to be nice, tight perfect fit.  Made out of silicone, TPU, or sometimes other custom materials.

Socket – arguably the most important part of the prosthesis.  The correct fit of this is essential.  Typically made from polypropylene plastic.  Amputees typically need a new one every 3 to 5 years, depending on how long you’ve been an amputee and if you’ve had any significant body changes like weight loss or gain.  Typically I’ve found that weight loss or gain of over 10lbs can start affecting the socket fit.

Sock – A stump sock that slips over the liner.  Use this when the size of your leg changes.  Can be weight loss, temperature, or even just changes over time.  Measured in ply.  I typically use a 1 ply sock.  But have used up to 10 ply before.  At that point you’re probably in desperate need of a new socket.

Pylon – attaches the socket to the foot. 

Note this is just a BK prosthesis and AK prosthetics are far more complex.  Primarily the more complex reference that you will hear will be regarding different types of knees which, from my understanding, can vary widely!

Alignment – The way the prosthesis is set up, mainly referring to the angle of the socket and foot.  If you’re out of alignment, it can throw you off completely!  Back pain, hip pain etc

Check or test socket – a temporary/plastic socket used to test the fit of a socket.

Ampuversary – Many amputees celebrate or commemorate the day they lost their limb.  

Life Day – This is what I call the Ampuversary because it’s the day I almost died.  So it’s the day I lived. 🙂

Phantom pains – Really is pain in a limb that isnt there. Seems to differ per amputee but doesn’t correlate with any injury or visible damage.  In my case I tend to get it if I’m sinking too low into my prosthesis and hitting the bottom with the tip of my stump anyways, when that happens I tend to get hot stabbing pains

Pistoning – this can also cause phantom pain.  Is when not fitting in the socket properly and start pistoning up and down

Atrophy – limb muscle will atrophy since it’s not being used in the same way as before

Osseointegration – thats where someone literally has surgery to implant a titanium structure so that it integrates with the person’s body and the prosthesis can be attached permanently.

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