Frequently Asked Prosthetic Questions

It’s time to start thinking about your prosthesis after you’ve had an amputation and your residual limb is healing. Here are some answers to questions new amputees frequently ask:

1. How do I prepare for my Prosthesis?

After you’ve had your amputation and begin healing, you will need to focus on resuming your physical activity. Your Physical Therapist will design an exercise program for you which will help you build your overall strength, as well as build the muscles that are needed for balance and walking with your prosthesis. It is in your best interest to follow this exercise program, so that you will have the best results with your new prosthesis. You will also be provided with bandages called “shrinkers” that will help reduce the swelling in your residual limb. Reducing the swelling is essential for proper fit of the prosthesis. You will be given instructions as to how to use the shrinker. The most important aspect of success is working with your doctor, prosthetist and therapist to address all of your concerns, and then to work with them on the processes of design, fitting and training, which are required to be a successful user.

2. What Happens When I am Ready for my Prosthesis?

When your residual limb has healed and has minimal swelling you will be ready for prosthetic measurements and fitting. It usually takes about five weeks to heal from your amputation, but healing time may take longer if you have poor circulation. During this stage, your medical providers will also be concerned with maintaining proper shape of the residual limb, as well as increasing overall strength and function.

3. What happens when I am ready to begin the process of getting my prosthesis?

When you are ready to begin the process, you will be fitted with your initial prosthesis, which is called your “preparatory prosthesis.” This is a temporary prosthesis that you will use during your training period. During this temporary phase, the limb is well healed, but remains volumetrically unstable. Following the temporary phase of prosthetics is the definitive phase. The limb has become more volumetrically stable and you will be ready begin definitive care. This involves the careful selection and fitting of the appropriate prosthetic componetry to maximize the functional capabilities of each patient. Proper gait training and limb maintenance are greatly stressed. Several factors will be taken into consideration when creating your unique prosthesis. Your age, prior activity level, lifestyle, physical and mental condition, and condition of your residual limb will all determine how your prosthesis will be created. During your prosthetics training, you will work with your doctor, physical therapist and prosthetist. Our goal will be getting your life back to normal, in the fastest and easiest way possible.

4. Is it difficult learning to use a prosthesis?

Learning to use a prosthesis takes time, great effort, strength, patience and perseverance. You work with a prosthetist and therapist while learning how to use your new limb. You will be given guidance on how to
• put on (don) and take off (doff) the prosthesis
• care for your prosthesis
• walk on different types of surfaces, including stairs and uneven terrain
• handle emergencies safely, including falling down and getting up again
• perform daily activities at home, at work and driving
• resuming other activities such as sports and recreational activities

5. How long will it take to learn how to use my prosthesis and return to my normal activities?

Rehabilitation will be different for everyone and depends on their motivation, physical strength and muscle strength. For most people, it takes 3 to 4 weeks after starting your training until you can resume your normal activities. Many amputees will be able to return to their jobs, yet some may need to change or modify their jobs depending on their profession. Most amputees are able to drive at this time as well. Some amputees may require an adaptive device to assist with driving.

6. How will my prosthesis be made? How will it stay on?

Depending on the level of your amputation, physical ability and functional needs, each prosthesis will be somewhat different. The prosthetists will first take a series of measurements of your residual limb and then make a cast mold of your limb. Most standard prostheses, are comprised of conventional component parts (foot, knee, hand, etc.) that are attached to a socket that fits over your residual limb. If you desire a more natural look, that option is available to you as well. Prosthetics are made from a variety of materials that provide greater strength and less weight. The prosthesis is held on in a variety of ways. Suction, foam inserts and clips and straps are all used to secure your prosthesis. Your prosthetist will make many alignment and fitting adjustments to ensure proper fit and design.

7. What if the prosthesis doesn’t fit right?

Follow-up is as important as the initial fitting. You will need to make several visits for adjustments with the prosthetist as well as training with your physical therapist. Together, your prosthetist and physical therapist can help you ease pressure areas, adjust alignment, work out any problems, and regain the skills you need to get your life back to normal. You should inform your prosthetist if the prosthesis is uncomfortable, too loose or too tight. Prostheses, like cars, need regular maintenance and repair to continue efficient functioning. Small adjustments can make a big difference. Proper communication with you prosthetist and therapist regarding your problems and concerns will result in better success for you.

8. What types of shoes can I wear with my prosthesis?

You will be able to wear most casual shoe styles with your prosthesis. Most prosthetics feet have a ¾ inch heel, but you have the option of choosing various feet with different heel heights. Your shoes should be comfortable, have proper non skid soles, and fit properly. High heeled shoes should be avoided.

9. How do I determine the amount of prosthetic socks I should wear?

Many amputees wear prosthetic socks over their residual limb. These prosthetic socks come in a variety of thicknesses and materials. Prosthetic socks protect your skin, provide cushion, absorb sweat, and compensate for changes in size due to swelling and shrinkage of your residual limb. Your residual limb will change in size and shape. The prosthetic socks will help you to maintain a proper fit of your prosthesis as these changes in size and shape occur. A prosthetic sock thickness and weight is represented with the term “Ply”. Greater ply means greater thickness. Below, is a guide to sock ply and thickness.

1-Ply (White)- all white sock
3-Ply (Green)- all white sock with a green ring around the top end
5-Ply (Blue)- all white sock with a blue ring around the top end

Several socks will be provided to you when you receive your prosthesis. These socks will help you to control the fit of your prosthesis. If the prosthesis seems too tight, then you should reduce the sock ply, and if it is too loose, then you should add sock ply until the fit is appropriate. Ideally, you should use minimal amounts of socks to achieve the best fit. This is important in avoiding skin irritation and breakdown. Sheaths, which help to reduce friction caused by excessive rubbing and help wick away perspiration, can also be worn.

10. Can I swim with my prosthesis or get it wet?

There are special prosthesis’ that are designed for swimming. If you do not have a special swimming prosthesis, then you should not get it excessively wet. Water can damage the components of your prosthesis.