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Prosthetic Finger Attachments and How They Work

written by: Lashan Clarke • edited by: Anurag Ghosh • updated: 1/17/2011

Technological advancements in finger prosthesis have made it possible for someone who does not have a finger to be able to use prosthetic finger attachments to have a fully functioning hand again.

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    Introduction - Prosthetic Finger Attachments

    Previously when people had their fingers removed, they would have to just go through life without it or have a metal finger fashioned for them. However prosthetic finger attachments can restore the ability, the look, and the usage of having real fingers.

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    Why Use Prosthetic Fingers?

    The prosthetic finger was created to give someone the use of a fully functioning hand. It improves the person’s dexterity and grip. The person could have been born without a finger or fingers, lost the finger in an accident, or had the finger amputated for another reason. Therefore, the use of medical technology has made it possible for someone to play the guitar again using prosthetic finger attachments, or other tasks that we use our hands for.

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    How the Normal Finger Functions?

    One of the most amazing things about our fingers is how we use them to hold objects, play an instrument or even give a handshake. The fingers are controlled by the brain. The finger digits do not have muscles in the same way the arm or leg would. Instead they are a collection of tendons, nerves, and blood vessels. The only muscles that are in the hand are located within the palm of the hand, etc.

    The fingers are composed of bones called the phalanges with three joints in between. There is also a nerve and artery running along the side of the outer edges of the bone. Below the bones are the tendons that move the fingers. These tendons are the two flexor digitorum superficialis and the one flexor digitorum profundus. Therefore, the flexor superficialis will bend the finger at the proximal joint, whereas the flexor profundus will bend the finger at the distal joint.

    When a person wants to pick up an object, the brain will send messages using the ulnar and radial nerve to the muscles in the palm that move the hand. The nerves will activate the muscles to contract the tendons. The tendons will bend the fingers at the appropriate joints to curl the fingers around the object. The muscles in the arm and forearm will then be used to pick up the object, after the fingers have tightened around it.

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    How a Prosthetic Finger Functions?

    When a person is to be given a prosthetic finger, the physician will first have to look at the reason the finger was lost. He will also consider how much of the finger can be replaced with a prosthesis. Therefore, it is possible to have only a prosthetic finger placed on at the promixal finger joint or whole finger prosthesis can be placed on.

    The main task during a placement of prosthetic finger attachments is to ensure that nerve signals from the muscle in the hand are programmed correctly for the person to move the replacement finger. The prosthetic finger is often made of metal, wires, and covered in silicone to give the appearance of skin. When the prosthetic finger is to be fitted, several measurements and skin color comparisons are made to achieve a very realistic prosthetic device.