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Medical Orthotist Prosthetist
Medical Orthotist Prosthetists design and make artificial limbs (prosthetics) and surgical appliances such as splints, braces and surgical shoes (orthotics).

These specialists work in a team with the surgeon, physiotherapist, occupational therapist and nursing staff. They also deal directly with patients. After the surgeon has diagnosed the problem the patient is experiencing, steps are taken to overcome or diminish the physical disability.

Surgeons send orthotist prosthetists prescriptions, which sets out the treatment patients are to receive. The orthotist prosthetist and surgeon may discuss the prescription and the technology available to treat the patient.

Patients are measured to ensure that the new appliance or limb will fit perfectly. The orthotist prosthetist then designs and manufactures an orthosis prosthesis suitable for the individual. Casts are made of the applicable part of the patient's anatomy and the appliance or limb is constructed, using the cast as a point of measurement throughout the process.

Orthotist prosthetists construct appliances and limbs from a variety of materials, using a number of processes including sawing, drilling, riveting and moulding molten plastic. Pigments are mixed to match skin colour and this is applied to the artificial limbs. Limbs are then tested for freedom of movement and other functional efficiency.

Finally the finished product is measured and modified on the patient until the patient is satisfied. Orthotist Prosthetists also spend some time with patients providing instruction on the proper use of the new appliances or limbs.

Orthotist prosthetists mainly specialize in one of the following areas:

Medical orthotics: An orthosis assists or takes over the function of a joint or part of the human anatomy that is either deformed or does not function correctly. This can encompass the entire system such as the hands, shoulders, hips and knees.

Medical prosthesis: A prosthesis replaces a part of the body missing due to birth, accident or disease. Generally the predominant parts affected are the legs, although a prosthesis may be made to replace missing arms, hands etc.

Medical footwear: Footwear may be made to provide support for normal feet, to help defects such as a clubfoot or to compensate for deviations where one leg is longer than the other.

The materials used by the orthotist prosthetist have changed rapidly over the past few years. Appliances once made from steel and leather are replaced by plastics and materials such as carbon fibres and acrylic resin which make it possible to manufacture lighter, more functional and aesthetically pleasing orthosie / prostheses.

The technological advancement made in electronics makes it possible for orthotist prosthetists to manufacture prostheses that function electronically, for example artificial hands.

Satisfying Aspects
- working with people, yet also with your hands and creating useful items
- when a limb is a perfect fit and the patient is happy
- when a patient adjusts to and uses an artificial limb successfully

Demanding aspects
- each prosthesis is different and sometimes it is difficult to perfect the required article
- dealing with depressed and negative patients
- the special care needed for patients can be taxing at times.

A medical orthotist prosthetist should:
- have empathy for, and genuine interest in, working with people with disabilities
- be creative in helping patients solve their problems;
- psychologically well adjusted with a positive approach
- be compassionate and able to inspire confidence
- have mechanical and biomechanical insight;
- be able to work with their hands as a large part of the job entails the actual construction of the limbs or appliances.

School Subjects
National Senior Certificate meeting degree requirements for a degree course

Each institution will have its own minimum entry requirements.

Compulsory Subjects: Physical Sciences, Life Sciences
Recommended Subjects: Mathematics, Engineering and Graphic Design

Diploma: N.Dip: Medical Orthotics & Prosthetics - TUT

The duration of the course is 3 years and includes practical training at an institution approved by the Interim National Medical and Dental Council of SA.

All prospective students have to undergo the selection procedure that takes place annually in July.
Theoretical subjects include Anatomy, Orthotics, Prosthetics, Orthotics and Prosthetics Materials, Physical Science, Psychology and basic concepts of Orthopaedics.

After complying with all the requirements for the diploma and successfully completing the 1-year internship, registration with the HPCSA (or the Interim National Medical and Dental Council of South Africa) is compulsory for practising as a medical orthotist prosthetist.

- Orthopaedic workshops
- Hospitals
- Government departments
- Private institutions
- Self-employment - a medical orthotist prosthetist can go into private practice on his own or with a partner.

South African Orthotics and Prosthetics Association (SAOPA)
P O Box 27011
Greenacres, 6057
Port Elizabeth
Tel: (041) 581-7390 Fax: 088 041 5817390
Cell: 082 990 0907

Tshwane University of Technology (TUT)
Tel: (012) 318-5911