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When a person has lost one or both of his or her legs because of a birth defect, illness, injury or other event, a doctor or specialist might recommend the use of prosthetic legs. These legs are worn to help the person regain functions that were performed by the lost limb or limbs and to keep him or her from having to rely on the use of a wheelchair or crutches. There are different variations of prosthetic legs; the most common forms of them are above-the-knee prosthetics and below-the-knee prosthetics. The type of leg a person will receive would depend on how much of the leg is missing.
Below-the-knee prosthetic legs are used when the patient has some part of the lower leg. Also called a trans-tibial prosthetic leg, it is designed so that the patient can place the part of the leg below the knee into the prosthetic and use the leg as though it was a full leg. This type of prosthetic leg has a socket, shin and foot attached to make up for the missing part of the leg. Below-the-knee prosthetics are somewhat easy to handle for the patient because he or she has control of his or her knee.
An above-the-knee prosthetic is designed for a patient who is missing the majority of the leg, including the knee. Also called a trans-femoral prosthetic, it is designed to replace the socket, knee, shin and foot of the patient. Above-the-knee prosthetic legs can be a bit more difficult for the patient to maintain than the below-the-knee leg, because a patient using an above-the-knee leg has no knee of his or her own to help control the prosthetic. This type of prosthetic is much more expensive than a below-the-knee prosthetic because it has more functions.
For a patient who leads an extremely active life, a lesser-used type of prosthetic leg called a C-leg could be a better option. This type of prosthesis uses a hydraulic cylinder, is very costly and provides the patient with extreme mobility. It is programmable with different settings that allow the user to run, jog and even use roller skates. In some cases, disability insurance can help pay for the cost of prosthetic legs.