An orthotist/prosthetist is a university-trained health professional who:
- assesses children and adults for artificial limbs (prostheses) and supportive devices like braces or splints (orthoses)
- designs, makes, fits and maintains artificial limbs and supportive devices.
Orthotist/prosthetists work on improving the movement and comfort of people who have:
- missing limbs
- bones and muscles that need support
- injuries – for example, fractures or burns.
Orthotist/prosthetists aim to help people take part in everyday life more easily and enjoy life more.
Orthotist/prosthetists typically work in private clinics, as well as public and private hospitals.
If your child has health or development concerns, health professionals like orthotist/prosthetists are there to care for your child and help you understand your child’s condition and treatment. With the support and expertise of these professionals, you can help your child thrive.
Why your child might see an orthotist/prosthetist
An orthotist/prosthetist might work with your child if your child needs:
- a prosthesis because they’re missing part of a limb – for example, a below-knee prosthesis to replace an amputated lower limb
- support for an injured, weak or incorrectly functioning limb – for example, an ankle-foot brace to support tight or stiff calf muscles
- support for bone growth – for example, a spinal brace for scoliosis or a hip brace for babies with developmental dysplasia of the hip
- help with rehabilitation from surgery or an injury – for example, a fracture brace or burns pressure garment.
The orthotist/prosthetist will assess your child, and then they might design and make an orthosis or a prosthesis for your child. The orthotist/prosthetist will need to see your child regularly to make sure the orthosis or prosthesis is fitting and functioning well. Often, orthoses and prostheses need to be replaced as children grow.
Your child doesn’t need a GP referral to see an orthotist/prosthetist, but your GP or child and family health nurse is always a good place to start if you’re worried about your child’s health or development. These health professionals can help you decide about seeing an orthotist/prosthetist and help you find someone who’s right for your child. The Australian Orthotic Prosthetic Association can also help you find a local orthotist/prosthetist.
Before going to an orthotist/prosthetist
If your GP, child and family health nurse or orthopaedic surgeon refers your child to an orthotist/prosthetist, it’s a good idea to ask about things like the following:
- Why you’re going: ask why your child needs to see an orthotist/prosthetist.
- Appointments: do you need to make the appointment, or will the GP or other health professional make it for you?
- Waiting lists: how long before you can get an appointment?
- Is there anything you can do while you’re waiting for the appointment? For example, can your child start some treatment or therapy?
- Costs: how much will the appointment with the orthotist/prosthetist cost? Check whether you can get money back from Medicare or private health insurance or whether you can get financial help under the National Disability Insurance Scheme.
- Locations: find out where you have to go to see the orthotist/prosthetist – for example, a public or private hospital or a private clinic.
- Qualifications: is the orthotist/prosthetist certified with the Australian Orthotic Prosthetic Association? Certification isn’t compulsory for orthotist/prosthetists in Australia, but certified orthotist/prosthetists are qualified and up to date with professional development and practice. The Australian Orthotic Prosthetic Association can help you find a certified orthotist/prosthetist.
You might want to talk about these and any other issues with your GP or other health professional before you go to the orthotist/prosthetist. You could also ask the orthotist/prosthetist clinic when you make the appointment. It’s a good idea to write down any questions you have, so you don’t forget.