Artificial limb (prosthesis)

Following an amputation for bone cancer, most people are fitted with an artificial limb called a prosthesis.

About artificial limbs

Sometimes treatment for primary bone cancer or soft tissue sarcoma involves an operation to remove all or part of a limb. This type of surgery is called an amputation.

After an amputation, most people can be fitted with an artificial limb called a prosthesis. Modern technology means artificial limbs are now very effective. They allow people do many of the things they did before the amputation.

Some artificial limbs are designed to look like the limb they are replacing, but do not move. These are often called passive limbs. They usually only replace hands and arms.

Other artificial limbs are designed to help carry out a wide range of everyday activities, such as gripping, walking, running and playing sport. These types of limb may look very different from the limb they are replacing. Or they may be designed to look as similar as possible. Depending on your needs, you may have more than one type of artificial limb.

Artificial limbs might not be suitable for people who have other health conditions.

Having a prosthesis fitted

After your operation, you will be referred to a prosthetic rehabilitation or limb-fitting unit. The team in the unit will show you the different types of artificial limb and how they work. They will talk to you about your needs and help you choose the best type of prosthesis for you.

When you are ready to have an artificial limb made, a specialist called a prosthetist will take careful measurements or a plaster cast of your limb. They will then make a mould of your limb. This will be used to create a custom-built socket that fits over your limb. The artificial limb is attached to the socket.

It can take a few weeks for your artificial limb to be made. To make sure it fits comfortably, you may need a few fitting appointments. It is important to give the prosthetist feedback on how well the artificial limb fits and works.

If it is an artificial leg, you will have specialist physiotherapy for a few months to help you learn how to use it. If it is an artificial arm, you will have occupational therapy to help you learn how to use it. You will need to feel well enough to cope with prosthetic rehabilitation. If you are having more treatment after surgery, limb-fitting and rehabilitation may be delayed until you recover.

You will have regular appointments at the limb-fitting unit for the rest of your life. The team in the unit will look after your artificial limb and check it still fits and works properly.

About our information

  • References

    Below is a sample of the sources used in our information about primary bone cancer. If you would like more information about the sources we use, please contact us at

    European Society for Medical Oncology, ESMO. 2021. Bone sarcomas: ESMOeEURACANeGENTURISeERN PaedCan Clinical Practice Guideline for diagnosis, treatment and follow-up. Annals of Oncology. S. J. Strauss1 et al. Available at: (accessed July 2023)

    UK guidelines for the management of bone sarcomas, Clinical Sarcoma Research (2016) 6:7. Gerrand C et al on behalf of the British Sarcoma Group. Available at: UK guidelines for the management of bone sarcomas - PMC ( July 2023)

    British Medical Journal, BMJ Best Practice. Osteosarcoma. Last updated May 2022. Last reviewed 27 Jun 2023. Available at: Osteosarcoma - Symptoms, diagnosis and treatment | BMJ Best Practice (accessed July 2023)

  • Reviewers

    This information has been written, revised and edited by Macmillan Cancer Support’s Cancer Information Development team. It has been reviewed by expert medical and health professionals and people living with cancer. It has been approved by senior medical editor Fiona Cowie, Consultant Clinical Oncologist.

    Our cancer information has been awarded the PIF TICK. Created by the Patient Information Forum, this quality mark shows we meet PIF’s 10 criteria for trustworthy health information.

The language we use

We want everyone affected by cancer to feel our information is written for them.

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Date reviewed

Reviewed: 01 August 2021
Next review: 01 August 2023

This content is currently being reviewed. New information will be coming soon.

Trusted Information Creator - Patient Information Forum
Trusted Information Creator - Patient Information Forum

Our cancer information meets the PIF TICK quality mark.

This means it is easy to use, up-to-date and based on the latest evidence. Learn more about how we produce our information.