Since you rely on your residual limb and prosthesis to move, it’s important to know how to take care of both. A prosthesis is a mechanical device that requires cleaning as well as regular prosthesis maintenance by a prosthetist or technician.
As for your residual limb, it will need to undergo a “shaping” process whereby your healthcare provider will prescribe a compression stocking to shape it to fit the prosthesis. You should follow your doctor's recommendations, as they will prescribe the best above knee prosthesis use and care for each amputees’ needs.
Below is a general guide on how to care for prosthetics.
- New amputees should shower or bathe in the evening rather than the morning, as hot water causes limbs to swell, which makes it more difficult to fit prostheses. PrimeCare team recommend wearing a shrinker at first to compress your limb until such time you no longer need to.
- Those with below-knee (transtibial) amputations should avoid sleeping and sitting with pillows underneath their residual limb, as this leads to an inability to straighten the knee.
- Above knee amputation care for prosthesis entails not sleeping with limbs resting on a pillow because this causes the inability to straighten the hip. Amputees should also not sleep with a pillow between their legs, as there’s a risk of lengthening and shortening muscles in the thigh, which makes it difficult to walk.
- Do daily stretching exercises recommended by your doctor. These straighten the knee and hip to provide increased comfort when lying down and walking.
Routine skin care while using prosthetics is crucial to maintain the skin’s protective function.
Any neglect may lead to painful ulcers and serious infection, which affects rehabilitation, comfort, and mobility.
- Wash your limb once a day with mild soap and warm water, and pat it completely dry to avoid fungal growth.
- Always examine skin before and after wearing your prosthetic. If there are signs of persistent redness, ulceration, tears, or scrapes, notify your doctor and prosthetist immediately. If red patches last more than a few minutes after you remove your prosthesis, this may be a sign your socket needs checking.
- Because residual limbs are enclosed in plastic sockets, perspiration is likely and normal. However, this can also be the source of odor and bacteria. Sprinkling a small amount of powder can help, as well as changing the prosthetic sock to keep things dry and comfortable. Perspiration generally subsides with persistent prosthetic use.
- Consult your doctor before using lotions, ointments, or powders, as this may irritate skin or cause inflammation. There are products specially formulated for amputees, which your doctor can recommend.
- Prosthetists discourage amputees from shaving, waxing, or having laser therapy on their stump as this may cause infected ingrown hairs.
Bear in mind if an infection does occur, you’re unable to wear your prosthesis until your skin is completely healed. Luckily, adverse effects are completely avoidable with proper care.
Clean It Daily
Wondering how to clean a prosthetic leg or how to clean a myoelectric prosthetic? As a general rule of thumb, you should never immerse it in water. Thermoplastic sockets and liners can be cleaned with a simple solution of lukewarm water and mild soap. Stay away from harsh cleaning agents as this can damage the material.
For myoelectric sockets, use a damp cloth and wipe dry. Leave to dry thoroughly overnight and clean the exterior the same way when necessary. To ensure maximum hygiene, you should wear new liners and/or socks every day. This prevents the formation of bacteria from dampness and sweat.
Don’t Make Adjustments
If something feels off, it may be tempting to readjust it yourself; however, when it comes to prosthesis socket care and leg maintenance, you should never adjust anything. For instance, tightening the wrong screw may actually damage a socket, placing you at risk of malfunction. Beginning rehabilitation phases will require some adjustment as your limb gets used to your socket, and this should always be done by your doctor.
Prevent Water Damage
Upper and lower limb prosthesis care entail keeping it away from water (bathing, showering, and swimming) as this can rust and damage sensitive mechanical components. If you are involved in water sports, you may want to discuss the possibility of a waterproof prosthesis.
It’s also possible to wear prosthetic skins that protect against water damage and extend the overall life of components. While swimming with a prosthesis is a possibility, most take it off because it's easier to move without it. Additionally, swimming can relieve pressure on the skin, muscles, and joints.
Give It a Quick Once Over Each Day
As part of upper and lower limb prosthesis care, you should inspect your prosthesis once a day. If there are worn or frayed areas, loose components, or cable issues, alert your prosthetist immediately. This includes damage to the liner and socket. Going about your day with a broken or damaged prosthesis can produce suboptimal gait hazards and, in the worst-case scenario, present a health and safety risk to you and others.
See Your Prosthetist
Taking care of prostheses is a lifelong process. Regular appointments with your prosthetist ensure the optimal performance of your residual limb and prosthetic. Residual limbs can take a significant strain if overused and require careful monitoring. Moreover, prosthesis technology is constantly updating, meaning your prosthetist may be able to recommend better options for increased mobility as innovations improve.
Always store prostheses in a safe place where they can’t get knocked or bumped over. Taking proper care of a lower limb prosthesis, as well as upper extremity devices, prolongs its lifespan. Never store prostheses in direct sunlight, near an oven, or near a radiator. Prostheses usually wear out every three to five years, and because they are costly, most patients keep them in as best shape as possible.
Prosthetic rehabilitation is a journey. New amputees take time to get used to wearing a prosthesis as they adjust to new maintenance regimes and increased mobility. If you’re unsure how to take care of a prosthesis, or have any questions, always ask your doctor. They are qualified and attuned to your unique needs and will recommend the best course of action.
If you’re an amputee requiring a new prosthetic or about to undergo an amputation, then we can help make your journey towards independence a success. For over a decade, PrimeCare has provided residents in Las Cruces and surrounding areas with cutting-edge prosthetics that improve their lives. Contact us for a no-obligation, initial consultation today!