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Prosthetics FAQs

Prosthetics Frequently Asked Questions

Capstone O&P wants to make sure that no matter what stage you are in during your rehabilitation, you have the information that you need! Here is a list of commonly asked questions to help guide you through your journey.

What is a prosthesis? In general, how does it work?

A prosthesis is an external device that fits onto your residual limb to accommodate for your limb loss or deficiency and aid you in activities of daily living such as walking or running (lower limb) or carrying, lifting, opening doors, etc., (upper limb). Each prosthesis is uniquely made to each patient's residual limb shape, alignment, and functional needs. The components of a prosthesis include the socket (container residual limb fits into) endo/exoskeletal componentry (connects the limb with the hand or foot), suspension system (method of holding the prosthesis on the limb), and a prosthetic knee, foot, hand, elbow, or other prosthetic replacement for a missing joint.

How soon after amputation will I receive my prosthesis?

The timing depends on how quickly your residual limb fully heals from the surgery. Some individuals receive a temporary prosthesis immediately following amputation or within two to three weeks after surgery. Usually, a prosthetic device fitting begins two to six months after surgery once the surgical incision has healed completely, the swelling has gone down, and your physical condition improves. The rehabilitation process, however, should begin soon after your surgery with physical and/or occupational therapy, learning mobility with a wheelchair, walker, or crutches, and exercising and stretching to avoid contractures to keep you as mobile as possible and prepare you for wearing and using your prosthesis. [Amputee Coalition Resource]

How soon after amputation will I get back to doing activities that I normally do?

Your new normal will depend on the type of amputation(s) you have, your rehabilitation process, and your overall health and well-being. Your prosthesis will be a tool to help you do the things you used to do as well as the activities you want to do now. How well you do will depend on your goals, a correct and comfortable prosthesis fitting, follow-up care, and determination. The first year following amputation can be a difficult adjustment. There will be changes in the shape and size of your residual limb. You and your team will put in a lot of work to recondition muscles. Your body will need to relearn activities, gait, balance, and coordination. You will also need to learn to trust your prosthesis. You will continue to improve with time and effort. It is important to have a strong support network around you for this journey. The Amputee Coalition’s Peer Support programs are an excellent resource to help you build support with others who have experienced limb loss or limb difference. The Peer Support team can connect you with a support group online or in your area, as well as connect you with a Certified Peer Visitor who can offer you encouragement and information from their perspective. For more information on how to connect with others in the limb loss community, visit the Amputee Coalition's Support Page:

What can I do to prepare myself for getting a prosthesis?

There is a lot you can and must do to be able to use a prosthesis, beginning with these top priorities: Work through the feelings and emotions you are experiencing and decide how to approach your life after an amputation. Remember that everyone responds differently to the loss of a limb or being born with a limb difference. Don’t be afraid to look into visiting with an amputee peer, attending an Amputee Support Group, or working with a counselor or psychologist, as these are all normal ways of coping with such a major life change. Exercise to build the muscles needed for balance and moving around. Prepare and take care of your residual limb to attain a proper, sound shape. Learn body positioning, stretching and strengthening to maintain muscle tone and prevent contractures. [Amputee Coalition Resource]

Will I need to use an assistive device like crutches, a cane, a walker, or a wheelchair once I get my prosthesis?

Most active amputees do not regularly use their assistive devices after getting a prosthesis and completing intensive physical therapy. On occasion, they will use an assistive device when they cannot wear their prosthesis or if they are having pain in their limb. Many elderly amputees with other orthopedic or neurological issues may rely on an assistive device and prosthesis to ensure safety or walk for prolonged periods of time. Many bilateral amputees also use a wheelchair when caregiver help is unavailable or they are fatigued. Every patient's rehabilitation journey is unique and it is encouraged to utilize an assistive device as long as needed to ensure safety.

After getting a prosthesis, will there need to be more appointments and adjustments?

Yes! After getting your prosthesis, you will need to follow up with your prosthetist 2 weeks after delivery, monthly for 3 months, and then every 6 months or on an as-needed basis. These visits are important to ensure that your prosthesis is fitting and functioning optimally. Small adjustments can make a big difference. Proper fit of the socket and good alignment will make sure that the prosthesis is working for you. It can also help prevent some secondary conditions individuals may experience such as skin breakdown or misaligned gait that could cause pain and damage to proximal joints.

What do I do if my prosthesis is hurting my limb or causing skin breakdown or bruising?

If you notice any of the above while wearing your prosthesis, you should call and schedule a follow-up appointment with your prosthetist and avoid high-intensity activities or prolonged walking and standing if you can. Ignoring any signs of excessive pressures or skin breakdown can lead to non-healing or infected wounds that could cause you to have to stay out of your prosthesis entirely and leave you reliant on assistive devices such as crutches or a wheelchair until you heal completely.

What do I do if I notice that the components are making noises, parts are rotating or moving out of place or that the prosthesis is generally not functioning properly?

If you notice any of the above while wearing your prosthesis, you should call and schedule a follow-up appointment with your prosthetist and avoid high-intensity activities or prolonged walking and standing if you can. Continuing to use your prosthesis after you have noticed that the components are not functioning properly or making noise can cause the prosthetic components to catastrophically fail which could lead to a significant fall or severe injury.

What do I do if I received a prosthesis in the last 6 months from another provider, but my prosthesis is no longer fitting or working properly? Can Capstone O&P help me?

If you have received a prosthesis from another provider recently, and it is no longer fitting or functioning properly; you may be experiencing a change in your weight or anatomy that has created the problem. Additional surgeries will also change the fit and function of your prosthesis. If this is the case and there is a documented weight or anatomical change by your physician, Capstone O&P is ready to help! Contact us today for a free virtual or in-person consultation, and we will make a plan to get you what you need!

How long does a prosthesis last?

Prosthetic parts such as the endoskeletal components (metal pylon, attachment pieces, locks, valves, etc.), feet, knees, hands/terminal devices, elbows, vacuum pumps, etc., may last anywhere from 3-5 years under normal wear and tear depending on how active you are and what activities you are participating in. Many prosthetic components last longer than that with routine maintenance and moderate activity. The smaller or more delicate parts such as valves, locks, and straps may fail prior to that and need to be replaced. Soft goods such as gel or pelite liners, socks, and sleeves usually need to be replaced yearly as they are prone to tearing and breaking down from daily use. Sockets can also last anywhere from 1-5 years or more depending on how long it's been since your amputation and how stable your weight and volume are. If your limb volume or weight fluctuates frequently, a socket may need to be replaced even as soon as 6 months (or sooner) after you have received it. Multiple adjustments, padding, and other methods would be used to modify the socket to your volume change. Once these modification techniques have been exhausted and if no adequate remedy is found, a new socket could be justified to your insurance provider when proper documentation is obtained from your physician. Maintaining a stable weight through proper diet and exercise and maintaining a stable limb volume through the use of shrinker socks and wearing your prosthesis consistently is of the utmost importance.

What maintenance does my prosthesis need?

Every prosthesis is unique and has a customized selection of components and parts. Therefore, each prosthetic maintenance plan is different. That being said, it is best to go over the specific routine maintenance that your prosthesis requires when your device is delivered. A general rule of thumb is that you should follow up with your prosthetist every 6 months to 1 year for them to assess how your prosthesis is fitting and functioning. During these appointments, routine maintenance should be performed if needed on the prosthetic components such as: lubrication of any knee/foot bumpers or joints; checking valve seals on suction/vacuum systems for leaks; checking for cracked or moving attachment plates or set screws; checking soft goods such as gel or pelite liners, socks, and sleeves for wear and tear; and inspecting your residual limb for areas of excessive pressures and skin breakdown.



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