You’ve had an amputation, your residual limb is healing, and it’s time to start thinking about your prostheses. Here are some answers to questions new amputees frequently ask:
What happens after the amputation? Are bionic limbs available that can make me just like I was before?
A prosthesis is not bionic. It is an artificial replacement for a missing limb or part of a limb. Although a prosthesis is never as natural as your own limb, it can help you to do many things quite effectively if you are willing to combine your energy and willpower into learning how to use it. The most important aspect of success is working with your doctor, Prosthetist and Physiotherapist to address all of your concerns, and then to work with them on the processes of treatment, design and training, which are required to be a successful user.
What does a prosthesis look like? How will 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 prosthesis, they are comprised of conventional component parts attached to a socket that envelopes your residual limb.
How does a prosthesis work? 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 a few to several months, depending on the location of the amputation as well as physical ability. How well they function depends primarily on their goals along with timely, comfortable prosthetic fitting, good follow-up care, and a “can do” attitude from themselves as well as their medical team.
When will I get a prosthesis?
Generally, you should be ready for prosthetic measurements and fitting a few weeks after surgery, when the wound is healed and the tissue swelling is decreased. Then you will be ready for prosthetic measurements and fitting. This process can be easily attained 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. Fitting is usually stress-free and involves several steps to create a unique prosthesis for you.
What is involved in the casting process for a new prosthesis?
When your physician writes the prescription for your prosthesis, you will then see your Prosthetist for casting. This procedure is done in the clinic. Your Prosthetist will evaluate your limb, take a set of measurements and outline the important features of your limb. He will then cast your limb to obtain a mold. This impression is then filled with plaster. Once the proper modifications have been made to your model, the technicians will fabricate a prototype prosthesis called a check socket. You will be seen back in the clinic approximately 5 days later for fitting.
What can I expect at the fitting of my temporary prosthesis?
The first fitting is usually done at our clinic or physical therapy department. It is important that you wear loose, comfortable clothing and both shoes. Your Prosthetist, and/or physical therapist, will explain how to don your prosthesis and how to manage the soft socks or liner that you may be using.
After I receive my definitive prosthesis, how often will I need to see my Prosthetist?
After you are fit with a definitive prosthesis you may not need to see your Prosthetist for months. It will depend on the fit and feel of your prosthesis. Your limb will continue to shrink and this may cause the original fit of your prosthesis to change. Everyone is different and changes happen at different rates. Any time you feel irritation or discomfort you will need to see your Prosthetist immediately. You are your best line of defense against an unsuccessful prosthetic experience.
Will I be able to participate in the leisure activities I did prior to my surgery?
YES! As long as your physician agrees, you should be able to return to the activities you once enjoyed. Prosthetic components today offer the amputee a variety of options that make participating in vocational, recreational activities and sports a reality. You will need to help your rehabilitation team by making them aware of your goals so the best possible options are chosen when it comes to your prosthetic care.
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. Ask questions about things you need or want to do. Communicate honestly about your needs. The more you communicate with your Prosthetist and therapist, the better you will be able to succeed with a prosthesis.
How long will it last
Depending on your age, activity level and growth, the prosthesis can last anywhere from several months to several years. In the early stages after limb loss, many changes occur in the residual limb that can lead to shrinking of the limb. This may require socket changes, the addition of liners, or even a different prothesis. 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 and can last for an average of two years.
Is it difficult learning to use a prosthesis?
Learning to use a prosthesis is a tough job. It takes time, great effort, strength, patience and perseverance. You will work with a therapist while learning how to handle the new prosthesis. Much like learning how to operate a car, you will need guidance on how to:
What can I do to prepare myself 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:
Will I need to use a wheelchair or crutches?
Some people elect 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, and your respective level of balance and strength. Most amputees have a pair of crutches for times when the limb is off, including night time 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 at least 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.
Once I have been fitted and feel comfortable in its function, what will happen next?
Plan on making follow-up visits to your Prosthetist a normal part of your life. Proper fit of the socket and good alignment will insure that the prosthesis is useful to you. Prostheses, like cars, need regular maintenance and repair to continue efficient functioning. Small adjustments can make a big difference.
Can the limb break down?
Yes, things can happen that will require repair or replacement. Get small problems with your prosthesis taken care of promptly. There is no benefit to waiting until something falls apart or causes you serious skin breakdown. If you wear a prosthesis too long when it needs repairs or replacement, you can do harm, not only to your residual limb, but also 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.
Is my prosthesis covered in Manitoba or is there a cost?
Yes your prosthesis is covered with good componentry in Manitoba for everyday life purposes without any cost, however if you want to perform specialized activities, ie running, and sports it is good to have insurance and to let your Prosthetist know.
Will it Hurt to wear a Prosthesis?
No. A good fitting prosthesis should not hurt. While there are some amputees that have unique conditions where they experience chronic pain, most amputees should be comfortable in their sockets. Socket fit is the most integral part of your prosthesis. All of the high tech prosthetic components available are useless if you cannot wear your prosthesis because it hurts. It is imperative to communicate what you are feeling to your Prosthetist so you achieve a comfortable socket.
How come I can still feel my toes? Is this normal?
This feeling is called Phantom Sensation or Phantom Pain and most amputees experience it. It is real and can be minimal or very severe, and of course this is normal…it happens to almost all amputees.
What causes Phantom Sensation or Phantom Pain?
There is no exact answer to what causes Phantom Sensation, and it continues to be debated. Below are some suggested causes of Phantom Sensation that come directly from amputees experiencing PS:
Pain issues before amputation – Some amputees believe pain issues in muscles, joints, tendons, etc. simply continue as Phantom Sensations post amputation.
Stress – Some amputees find that stress, whether physical or mental, seems to intensify their phantom pain.
Inactivity – Some amputees find an increase in Phantom Sensation if they are inactive and/or stay in the same position for an extended period of time. They have found it helpful to make sure blood flow is not limited or impinged by how they are sitting.
Can I still play sports with a prosthesis?
Most people can resume their sports activities using their prosthesis. Today, advances have been made that allow amputees to participate in practically any sport imaginable. There are amputee racecar drivers, amputee skiers, amputee kiteboarders, amputee hockey players and amputee runners.
Remember the only limits we have as Amputees are those you make yourself
Can I shower with my prosthesis on?
Yes , at least I do, make sure to dry your liners and your prosthesis well, but in my experience there is no reason you cannot shower with your prosthetic
Can I swim
Absolutely, again, as long as you dry your liners and prosthetic there is no reason you cannot swim with a prosthesis
Can I still Travel?
You can! Travel can resume as soon as you are ready, todays airlines and hotels have become very accommodating and can allow you to freely move about whether you use a wheelchair, walker or canes, or of course if you do not require walking aids. Usually when purchasing airline tickets you can click a box for handicap assistance, as well I encourage you to call your hotel/resort and ask questions to make you feel more comfortable with your plans.
Be prepared at the airport with today’s security, agents will inspect and search your prosthesis for security reason, and it is 100% normal to have this done, and they are extremely respectful of the situation as well, I personally have never felt un easy or disrespected.
Click the key word for a specific answer, and to view all FAQ’s click ALL
1818 Portage Avenue,
Winnipeg, Manitoba R3J 0G5
Phone: (204) 837-7190
Fax: (204) 837-9469
Toll-Free: 1 (855) 837-7190
602 1st Street
Brandon, Manitoba R7A 6K5
Phone: (204) 729-8216
Fax: (204) 725-2762
Toll-Free: 1 (855) 729-8216
Winnipeg Office Hours
Brandon Office Hours
Sat & Sun: Closed
All major Holidays: Closed