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Orthotists are health professionals who evaluate and treat musculoskeletal disorders by designing and fitting custom-made orthoses (commonly known as orthopedic braces). Individuals requiring protective support or correction may have muscle/bone impairment, disease or deformity. Orthotists work to restore mobility and prevent or limit disability. 

Prosthetists are allied health professionals who evaluate, design and fabricate custom-made artificial limbs (prostheses). Prosthetists work with people who are missing all or part of a limb due to an accident, congenital absence or disabling disease. 

Prosthetists/Orthotists are allied health professionals trained to provide orthopedic braces and artificial limbs to help people with disabilities maintain their independence. Currently, more than 3,200 orthotists and prosthetists nationwide have been certified by the American Board for Certification in Orthotics and Prosthetics (ABC), with roughly one-third certified as both prosthetists and orthotists, one-third prosthetists, and one-third orthotists. More than 700 registered orthotic and prosthetic technicians assist these practitioners. In addition, more than 700 orthotic and prosthetic practices are ABC-accredited.

The American Board for Certification in Prosthetics & Orthotics Inc (ABC) is the primary national credentialing organization for the competency of orthotists and prosthetists providing comprehensive orthotic and prosthetic care.  Orthotists and prosthetists awarded certification from ABC undergo a rigorous evaluation process. Since 1988, ABC-certified practitioners must acquire an undergraduate degree, complete 1,900 hours of supervised clinical experience or a structured residency program, and pass a series of written and clinical examinations. Every five years, certified practitioners renew their credentials through continuing education courses that assess knowledge of the latest developments in orthotic and prosthetic technology and patient management.  While only about 5 states requiring credentialing, ABC credentials represent the standard of the profession.   Under this standard, ABC-certified practitioners provide care to more than one million individuals with an amputation or limb absence, and three million individuals with orthopedic impairments.  ABC has about 2,000 members. 

Closest Training Program:  There are only about a half dozen educational programs in the US, with the closest being the highly regarded program at Northwestern (see Prosthetics Research Lab & Rehab Engineering).

See also:

American Academy of Orthotists and Prosthetists 

International Society for Prosthetics and Orthotics (ISPO)

National Association for the Advancement of Orthotics and Prosthetics (NAAOP)

National Commission on Orthotic and Prosthetic Education (NCOPE)

O&P Online

American Academy of Orthotists and Prosthetists and its Midwest Chapter

Amputee listserv


Copyright by Jack Winters.
For problems or questions regarding this web contact Jack Winters.
Last updated: January 17, 2001.