Orthotists design and fit surgical devices (orthoses) including neck collars, spine supports, braces and callipers. These support parts of the patient's body, for example, taking over from paralysed muscles or relieving pain. Prosthetists design and fit artificial arms and legs (prostheses), making them look and work as much like a real limb as possible.
Prosthetists design, supply and fit artificial arms and legs (prostheses). People might have lost a limb in an accident or had an amputation following a disease or injury. Sometimes, people are born without a limb.
Orthotists supply and fit surgical appliances (orthoses) that are used to help movement, compensate for paralysed muscles, relieve pain and correct deformities. Typical orthoses include:
- collars for the head and neck
- braces, corsets and trusses for the spine and abdomen
- splints for fingers and hands
- callipers for legs
- special shoes or insoles.
Both orthotists and prosthetists manage their own case load of patients. They are also very much part of a team, working alongside people such as doctors, nurses, physiotherapists and occupational therapists.
Orthotists/prosthetists concentrate on helping patients to carry on leading as normal a life as possible, at work, in the home and during leisure activities.
When they first meet a patient, they must assess their problem and then decide on the best type of device to meet their individual needs. Orthotists and prosthetists use their clinical knowledge of things such as anatomy and physiology, matching this with their knowledge of the most suitable device to use.
Next, they take detailed measurements, and, often, a plaster cast or digital image. Orthotists and prosthetists may use computers, for example, to model the shape a limb needs to be. The measurements will provide sizes for the technician, who will make the prosthesis or orthosis, enabling them to create a safe, comfortable fit for the device.
During fitting sessions, orthotists/prosthetists show the patient how the device works, what its limits are, and how to put it on and take it off. They ensure that the device is comfortable and the patient is happy with it.
The orthotist/prosthetist closely monitors how well the prosthesis or orthosis works. They make adjustments, repairs or renewals at regular intervals. They build a close relationship with the patient, helping them to adjust to their changed situation.
Orthotists and prosthetists work with patients of all ages. They also work with a wide range of disabilities from, for example, simple bone fractures or loss of a toe to complete paralysis or loss of limbs.
They work in hospitals, clinics and specialised rehabilitation centres.
Personal Qualities and Skills
Pay And Opportunities
Typical employers of orthotists: Employers include the NHS and orthotic/prosthetic manufacturers. Opportunities for orthotists and prosthetists occur in towns and cities throughout the UK. There are also opportunities to work in other countries, in either a paid or voluntary post.
Entry requirements vary by course so it is important to check with individual universities for specific requirements.