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Navigating the Confusing World of Amputee Acronyms

Navigating the Confusing World of Amputee Acronyms

Ever been reading an amputee-related magazine, blog, or social media post and seen DBKA, RAEA, O&P, CPO, PT, OT, BBKA, LEA, LLE, or BEA?


Did you feel like you were in an alternate universe or not in the cool kid’s club—totally out of touch with your community?

Don’t worry. It’s understandable, especially if you haven’t been an amputee long. The amputee community and its related medical community are certainly prone to using acronyms.

To help you get up to speed, following is a brief explanation of some of the acronyms you may run across. Knowing these meanings should help clear up this sometimes confusing alphabet soup of terms.

AE, BE, AK, BK, HP, and HD are shorthand to refer to levels of amputation: above-elbow, below-elbow, above-knee, below-knee, hemipelvectomy, and hip disarticulation. In addition, sometimes another letter is placed before these acronyms to denote the placement of the amputation. For example, RAE would mean right above-elbow, LAK would mean left above-knee, SAK would mean single above-knee, and DBK or BBK would mean the same thing—double below-knee or bilateral below-knee. In some cases, an A is placed after the acronyms to mean amputee or amputation. For example, RAEA would mean right above-elbow amputee or amputation).

Other common acronyms that are used to describe limb loss are LEA (lower-extremity amputation or amputee) and LLE (left lower-extremity). By now, you can probably guess what RLE and BLE mean.

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 Here are some of the most common acronyms listed for quick reference:

AE       above-elbow

BE       below-elbow

AK       above-knee

BK       below-knee

HP       hemipelvectomy

HD       hip disarticulation

RAE     right above-elbow

LAK      left above-knee

SAK     single above-knee

DBK     double below-knee

BBK     bilateral below-knee

LLE      left lower-extremity

RLE      right lower-extremity

The following commonly used acronyms refer to amputation-related professions, fields, and therapies:

O&P orthotic and prosthetic

CP certified prosthetist

CO certified orthotist

CPO certified prosthetist/orthotist

PT physical therapist or physical therapy

OT occupational therapist or occupational therapy