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Frequently Asked Questions

My doctor says I will need an amputation, so when should I contact a prosthetist?

Upon getting that information from your physician, you can ask for referrals from the medical team with which you are working. It is highly recommended that the practitioner and facility you select is certified and accredited by the American Board for Certification in Orthotics, Prosthetics, & Pedorthics (ABC). 

What does a prosthesis look like and how does it stay on?

Depending on the level of your amputation, physical ability, and functional needs, each prosthesis will be somewhat different. If you desire a “cosmetic look,” prosthetic supplements are available. But, for most standard prostheses, they are comprised of conventional component parts attached to a socket that fits over your residual limb.

APO of the PacificHow does a prosthesis work and will I be able to do all the things I did before I lost my limb?

The majority of people who lose a limb can get back to a normal mode of functioning within several months, depending on the location of the amputation as well as their physical ability. How well they function depends primarily on their goals along with timely, comfortable prosthetic fitting, good follow-up care, completion of physical and occupational therapy, and a “can do” attitude from themselves as well as their medical team.

When will I get the prosthesis?

While several circumstances determine when you will receive your prostheses, you should generally be ready for prosthetic measurements and fitting a few weeks after surgery, when the wound is healed and tissue swelling is decreased. This process can be accelerated with exercise and rehabilitation. During this stage, your medical team also will be concerned with maintaining proper shape of the residual limb, as well as increasing overall strength and function. Fabrication will usually take up to four weeks Fitting is usually stress-free and involves several steps to create a unique prosthesis for you. Upon receiving the prosthesis, rehabilitation continues to augment function and mobility.

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 a therapist. They can help you ease pressure areas, adjust alignment, work out any problems, and regain the skills you need to adapt to life after limb loss. Tell your prosthetist if the manufactured limb is uncomfortable, too loose, or too tight. The more you communicate with your prosthetist and therapist, the better you will succeed with a prosthesis.

Is driving a vehicle possible with a lower limb prosthesis?

With the use of adaptive devices, a lower limb amputee is likely to be able to safely return to driving. Consult your vehicle’s insurance company and the local Department of Motor Vehicles for additional information.

How long will the prosthesis last?

Depending on your age, activity level, and growth, the prosthesis can last up to several years. In the early stages after limb loss, many changes occur in the residual limb that can lead to the limb shrinking. This may require socket changes, the addition of liners, or even a different device. Later on, increased activity level and desire for additional function can necessitate a change in the prosthesis or its parts. Once you are comfortably adjusted and functioning at the desired level of activity, the prosthesis needs only minor repairs or maintenance.

Is it difficult learning to use a prosthesis?

Learning to use a prosthesis can be challenging, as it takes time, great effort, strength, patience, and perseverance. It is recommended that you work with a therapist while learning how to handle the new device. Much like learning how to operate a car, you will need guidance on how to…

  • take care of the prosthesis.
  • put on (don) and take off (doff) the 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 even in a car.
  • investigate new things you may be uncertain of, including sports and recreational activities.

What can I do to prepare for a prosthesis?

There is a lot you can and must do to be able to use a prosthesis and use it well. The top priorities are…

  • exercising to build the muscles needed for balance and ambulation.
  • preparing and taking care of your residual limb to attain a proper, sound shape for the prosthesis.
  • learning proper body positioning and strengthening to maintain tone and prevent contractures.
  • attending a support group to assist in working through the loss of a limb.

How often should I visit my prosthetist?

It is suggested that appointments be made every three to six months for ordinary maintenance and care. If you experience a slight change in your weight or your activity level has been modified, have an assessment completed.

Should I wear my prosthesis when sleeping?

It is suggested that the prosthesis be removed before going to sleep.

Can different shoes be worn with my prosthesis?

It is possible to wear different shoes, but it is suggested that the heel height is the same. The prosthesis is aligned with shoes you provide, so altering the shoe and heel height may impact the prosthesis fit. A low heel walking shoe offers the best stability. Consult your prosthetist regarding prosthetic feet that accommodate high-heeled shoes.

Will I need to use a wheelchair or crutches?

Some people choose not to use a prosthesis, relying exclusively on mobility devices. However, with a prosthesis, the use of crutches or a wheelchair depends on several factors, including…

  • level of amputation.
  • whether you have a single or bilateral amputation.
  • your respective level of balance and strength.

Most amputees have a pair of crutches for times when the limb is off, including nighttime trips to the bathroom, showering, participating in certain sports, and to help if problems arise that may require leaving the prosthesis off for any length of time.

If you are a person who has lost both legs, you will probably use a wheelchair some of the time. Unilateral amputees may find it helpful to use a cane or crutches for balance and support in the early stages of walking or just to have a break from the prosthesis. This is an individual decision based on factors such as age, balance, strength, and sense of security.

Can the limb break down?

Yes, over time the residual limb will shrink and gradually change shape, which will require repair or replacement of the prosthesis, so it’s a good idea to know about warranties and what to expect from your prosthetist. Have small problems with your prosthesis taken care of promptly. If you wear a prosthesis too long when it needs repairs or replacement, you can do harm, not only to your residual limb, but to other parts of your body. Strain on other muscles, especially in your back and shoulders, will affect posture in addition to performance of the device and energy needed to use it. Early prevention is more valuable than long-term treatment.

Does insurance pay for prosthetic and orthotic services?

Insurance companies often fully or partially cover various prosthetic and orthotic services. You may require preauthorization for a product or service, so contact your insurance company to take full advantage of your benefits.