Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

beginning of content


5-minute read

What are prostheses?

A prosthesis substitutes for a part of the body that may have been missing at birth, or that is lost in an accident or through amputation. Many amputees have lost a limb as part of treatment for cancer, diabetes or severe infection.

A prosthesis might also be an alternative to reconstructive surgery; for example, after removal of a nose or breast to treat cancer.

Modern prostheses for areas such as the hands, feet and face look very natural. They are often used to improve appearance rather than function. However, researchers are now developing hand prostheses with moving fingers.

Technological developments are also improving the function of limb prostheses. Some modern prosthetic limbs have battery-powered motors that help improve the prostheses’ function.

The range of prostheses includes surgically-implanted artificial body parts, such as replacement heart valves, bones or joints, and cochlear implants. If you have one of these, your medical team will advise you on maintaining your health and lifestyle following the surgery.

You might also have heard the word orthosis used. An orthosis supports and enhances a limb or body part, while a prosthesis replaces it. For example, an artificial leg is a prosthesis, while a splint to support the leg is an orthosis.

Types of prosthesis

Limb prostheses include:

  • arm prostheses fitted at, above or below the elbow
  • leg prostheses fitted at, above or below the knee

Other types of prosthesis include:

  • hand, foot, finger and toe prostheses
  • an artificial breast worn in the bra to replace a breast removed due to cancer
  • hearing aids
  • artificial eyeballs
  • ear, nose or eye socket replacements
  • an artificial soft or hard palate (worn like a dental plate)

Who can help with prostheses?

Prosthetists are health professionals who specialise in prostheses. If you need one, they will work with your medical team to design and fit your prosthesis and help you use and care for it.

If you need an orthotic device to correct problems with posture and walking, you might also be assisted by an orthotist.

What do prostheses cost?

Artificial limbs cost thousands of dollars, but there are many sources of funding. The cost might be covered in full or in part by:

Public funding does not usually cover spare limbs or, for adults, limbs for specific sporting activities. You might choose to pay a contribution to get a higher quality model prosthesis than one that public funding would supply.

Funding for breast prostheses is available under the External Breast Prostheses Reimbursement Program.

Prosthetics covered by private health insurance are listed on the Prostheses List. Most private cover doesn’t fund prosthetic limbs or cosmetic prosthetics, but it is worth checking with your insurer what they will cover.

Talk to your health professional about costs and funding sources. Remember to ask about the costs of surgery, scans, tests and hospital stays.

Prostheses for children

Children need prostheses that will allow them to be active and playful. Because they are growing, children will also need to have their prostheses adjusted every few months.

Learning how to use a prosthesis is challenging and tiring for anyone, especially a child. Limbs4Kids is an organisation that provides support for children who are missing a limb and for their families.

The Australian Government offers a range of allowances that specifically relate to parenting and disability, including the Carer Allowance, Carer Payment, Mobility Allowance, Pensioner Education Supplement and Family Payments. Visit the Services Australia or Carer Gateway websites for more information.

Living with prostheses

A prosthesis can help you cope better with day-to-day activities, but it takes time to get used to. You’ll need regular check-ups, and maybe adjustments, to make the prosthesis as comfortable and useful as possible. And you might need a plan for rehabilitation to make sure you benefit from your prosthesis as much as possible.

You will need to take care of yourself and your prosthesis.

You should:

  • remove the prosthesis for sleeping if that is recommended
  • regularly inspect your limb's stump and keep the skin healthy
  • wear appropriate protection between the stump and the prosthesis
  • wear the appropriate shoes for a leg prosthesis
  • clean the socket of the prosthesis
  • see your prosthetist for regular check-ups

Resources and support

You can find a prosthetic facility in your state or territory on the Limbs4Life website.

You should talk to your health professional about the benefits and risks of getting a medical implant. Use the Therapeutic Goods Administration's guide on what to ask. The information is in English, Arabic, Croatian, Farsi, Greek, Italian, Korean, Mandarin, Spanish, Turkish and Vietnamese.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: July 2020

Back To Top

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

Prosthetic limbs for children | Limbs 4 Kids

Prosthetic limbs for children A prosthesis is an artificial body part that is worn to replace all or part of an arm, leg, hand or foot

Read more on Limbs 4 Kids website

Prosthetics for Children

This Fact Sheet explores issues related to prostheses for children including: the reasons why a child would or wouldn’t use a prosthetic limb; how children receive and are fitted with a prosthesis; strategies and ideas for how to support a child to get the most out of their prosthetic limb.

Read more on Limbs 4 Life website


Limbs 4 Life is the recognized that amputees needed an organisation that provided up-to-date information and formalized peer support.

Read more on Limbs 4 Life website

Prosthetics and Componentry

Limbs 4 Life is the recognized that amputees needed an organisation that provided up-to-date information and formalized peer support.

Read more on Limbs 4 Life website

Prosthetic provider list | Limbs 4 Kids

Prosthetic provider list Are you looking for a specialist team that can help you to understand and choose the right prosthesis? Prosthetic providers can help match your child’s needs to a device solution, prescribe and fit it and provide follow up services to ensure their comfort

Read more on Limbs 4 Kids website

Find a Prosthetic Facility

Limbs 4 Life is the recognized that amputees needed an organisation that provided up-to-date information and formalized peer support.

Read more on Limbs 4 Life website

Terms used to talk about limb difference | Limbs 4 Kids

Terms used to talk about limb difference As the parent or carer of a child with limb difference you will hear different terms used to talk about limb difference and associated medical conditions, body parts, prosthetics, aids and equipment

Read more on Limbs 4 Kids website

Hygiene and residual limb care | Limbs 4 Kids

Hygiene and residual limb care It is really important to maintain the health of your child’s residual limb (sometimes referred to as a ‘little limb’) to prevent potential health problems

Read more on Limbs 4 Kids website

Orthotist/prosthetist: for parents & kids | Raising Children Network

Your child might see an orthotist/prosthetist if parts of her body need extra support or protection, or she needs an artificial limb. Read more.

Read more on website

Solution-based devices | Limbs 4 Kids

Solution-based devices There are many activity-specific devices and products available to help your child to reach their potential

Read more on Limbs 4 Kids website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information and advice

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Victorian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo

Healthdirect Australia acknowledges the Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and their continuing connection to land, sea and community. We pay our respects to the Traditional Owners and to Elders both past and present.