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 and fits artificial limbs and supportive devices.
Orthotist/prosthetists work on improving the movement and comfort of people who have:
- missing limbs
- disabilities of the bones and muscles
- injuries – for example, fractures or burns.
Orthotist/prosthetists 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 he needs:
- a prosthesis because of amputation or a missing limb
- support for an injured, weak or incorrectly functioning limb
- help with rehabilitation from an injury
- help to reduce pain
- help to increase movement and independence.
The orthotist/prosthetist will assess your child, make a limb especially for your child, and see your child regularly as she grows. This is to check the limb and/or replace it when your child grows out of it.
Orthotist/prosthetists can help these children in different ways, including fitting orthoses to help with walking or to give stability.
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. You can also go to the Australian Orthotic Prosthetic Association to 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 the following things:
- 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 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?
- Cost: how much will the appointment with the orthotist/prosthetist cost? It might be expensive, so you could 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.
- Location: find out where you have to go to see the orthotist/prosthetist – for example, a public or private hospital or a private clinic. You might have to travel further than you expect, depending on your child’s needs.
- Qualifications: is the orthotist/prosthetist registered with the Australian Orthotic Prosthetic Association? Registration isn’t compulsory for orthotist/prosthetists in Australia, but registered orthotists are qualified and up to date with professional development and practice.
You might want to talk about these things and any other questions you have with your GP 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.