After an amputation, a prosthetic device, or prosthesis, can help you regain mobility and independence in your daily activities. Learning to use a prosthesis correctly and how to care for it can ensure that it lasts longer and that it stays as comfortable and useful as possible. Here’s a list of the most frequently asked questions at Horton's Orthotics & Prosthetics on how to care for your prosthesis and the answers that our prosthetists give.
A is for ask
This is simple, but it’s some of the most important advice that you can get when it comes to prosthetics. The journey through amputation, recovery, prosthesis fabrication, and fitting involves a lot of information, and many patients can’t remember it all. And that’s okay. You should never be embarrassed or uncomfortable about asking questions even if you’ve asked them before.
Your prosthetist is there to help you, but they can only do a better job at that if you ask questions. If something doesn’t feel right or if you need to hear something again, speak up. The staff at Horton’s is always happy to guide you through what you don’t understand or remember.
If you want to have some questions prepared ahead of time, consider asking these at your next appointment.
How long does a prosthesis last?
This depends on a few different things, such as your age, your activity level, and how your body changes and grows. Your prosthesis may last anywhere from several months to several years.
Many physical changes will occur in your residual limb during the early stages of limb loss. This is includes a shrinking of the limb. If that’s the case, you may need a new socket, new liners, or even a different device to comfortably go about your daily activities.
Increased activity levels or a desire to do more may also require a change in prosthesis. For example, if you start running marathons, you may find that you need a different type of prosthetic leg or that what you have wears out more quickly.
On average, once you’re comfortable with the fit of your device, you might find that it can last about three years. This is also only with minor repairs and regular maintenance. However, you should check in regularly with your prosthetist to make sure that everything is going smoothly.
How do you keep a prosthetic leg dry?
Unless you have a custom prosthesis and your prosthetist specifically tells you that it’s allowed, you shouldn’t take your prosthetic leg into the pool, lake, or bathtub with you. The water could warp or corrode your prosthesis and cause permanent damage and discomfort. In a lake or pool, it’s possible that your prosthetic leg could get tangled up or caught, causing injury or even causing you to drown.
Summer perspiration and rain can also cause issues with your prosthesis. Dampness can build up on your skin or in your liner, causing friction. This can lead to a poor fit, chafing, and rubbing. When the moisture builds up, take off your prosthesis, and dry off your liner. You should also dry off the inside of your prosthesis and your skin with a clean, dry cloth. If you’ll be out for most of the day, bring a few extra towels to help with this.
How to care for breast prosthesis?
Breast prostheses are different than limb prostheses. You should always ask your certified mastectomy fitter for specific care instructions, because instructions can be different depending on the manufacturer and material. Generally, you should:
- Hand wash it with warm water and mild, unscented soap every time that you use it, then pat it dry with a towel.
- Rinse it after you swim in chlorine or saltwater.
- Not use a silicone prosthesis in a sauna
- Avoid using lotions, perfumes, etc. on your chest, because these can damage the prosthesis.
- Store your prosthesis in its box to help it keep its shape.
- Take care of it when you’re gardening, pinning brooches or corsages, or playing with pets.
C is for care
Since there are different care instructions for different types of prostheses, be sure to ask your prosthetist how to best care for yours. Here are the best care tips that you can use today.
- Remove your prosthesis before bed, and examine it for loose parts or signs of damage. You should also examine your amputation site for blisters or signs of irritation, which could be caused by poor fit.
- Clean the stump, and massage lotion into the skin.
- Wear a compression sleeve or a bandage to keep swelling down when you’re not wearing your prosthesis.
- Clean the socket with warm water and mild, unscented soap unless your prosthetist tells you to do otherwise.
- Always wear clean, dry socks with your prosthesis.
- Wash daily anything that touches your skin. This includes liners, socks, and the inside of the socket.
- Make sure that you’re wearing the correct shoe height for your prosthesis.
- Avoid using alcohol wipes on your liners unless your prosthetist tells you to do otherwise.
- Always carry extra liners and socks with you to change them out as needed.
Contact your prosthetist right away if your prosthesis fit changes suddenly, causes blisters or sores, or gives you any other problems. You might be tempted to make adjustments on your own, but it’s best to let your prosthetist handle any issues that you have with your device.
H is for Horton’s
Taking proper care of your prosthesis will ensure that you get back to your desired function level and will ensure a better experience on your journey as an amputee. For more information, contact Horton’s Orthotics & Prosthetics today at (501) 683-8889, or submit this form to request an appointment.