Orthoses (orthotic devices) are classified into classes of four body areas according to the international classification system (ICS). There are the orthotics of the lower extremities (English: Classes of lower limb orthoses), orthotics of the upper extremities (English: Classes of upper limb orthoses), Orthoses for the trunk (English: Classes of spinal orthoses) and orthotics for the head (English : Classes of head orthoses).
In the area of the respective classes, Orthoses (orthotic devices) are grouped according to their function. There are paralysis orthoses, relief orthoses and soft braces.
Under the International Standard terminology, orthoses are classified by an acronym describing the anatomical joints which they contain. For example, a knee-ankle-foot orthosis (English abbreviation: KAFO for Knee-ankle-foot orthoses) spans the knee joint, the ankle and the foot. A spinal orthosis (English abbreviation: TLSO for Thorako-lumbo-sacral orthoses) affects the thoracic spine, the lumbar spine and the sacrum. Use of the International Standard is promoted to reduce the widespread variation in description of orthoses, which is often a barrier to interpretation of research studies.
The transition from an orthosis to a prosthesis can be fluid. An example of this is compensating for a leg length discrepancy, which is equivalent to replacing a missing part of a limb. Another example is the replacement of the forefoot after a forefoot amputation. This treatment is often made from a combination of a prosthesis to replace the forefoot and an orthosis to replace the lost muscular function (orthoprosthesis).
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