Most people take their new cars to the shop for oil changes and tire rotations every six months as part of the manufacturer’s recommended maintenance schedule. Over time, our cars will remind us when a service update is needed through dashboard alerts, emails from dealerships, and more.
Unlike a car, your prosthesis needs a bit more attention. It’s important to keep up with adjustments and appointments to prolong the life of your prosthesis. Typically, a prosthesis might need adjusting every six months for the first few years, and then tapers off to only when necessary. Between visits to your prosthetist, there are ways to self-manage your residual limb and prosthesis.
Cleaning Your Prosthesis
After receiving your new prosthesis, your prosthetist will go over specifics on how to clean it properly, including what kind of cleaning agents can be used on it. In most cases, mild soap and water will do the trick.
Make sure you clean every part of your prosthesis that comes in contact with your skin on a daily basis, and additionally after excessive movement. Sweat and bacteria will build up inside your socket, so keeping it clean will prevent irritation to your skin and ensure that your socket is clean before every use. After cleaning with soap and water, lay everything out to dry completely before storing or donning. This includes your liner, which you can read more helpful tips under our care resources by clicking here.
Regardless of if your prosthesis is new or you’ve had it for years, it’s important to know if the fit is still correct. When you lose or gain weight, increase or lose muscle mass, or even if there’s an air pocket from application, your socket will fit different and will not provide the proper support you need. If you notice your socket is no longer suiting your needs or is uncomfortable to wear, talk with your prosthetist about fitting you for a new one immediately.
Cleaning Your Residual Limb
While keeping up with your prosthesis’ health is important, keeping your skin healthy and clean will also prolong the overall life of your prosthetic.
Use warm water and mild soap to clean your limb daily and after any excessive sweating or exercise. Pat dry with a towel and allow it dry fully before donning your sleeve. Any excess moisture within your sleeve can lead to bacterial growth or fungal infections.
If you’ve been cleared to shower or take a bath with your limb post-operation, keep in mind that warm water will cause swelling and may make it difficult or cause discomfort wearing your sleeve. Try bathing at night and wear a shrinker overnight until you are more familiar with caring for your limb.
Be careful when using lotion, creams, or other skin care products as they may cause irritation or infection if your limb is not fully healed. If you have questions about what products you can use around your limb, talk with your prosthetist.
When going outside with an exposed limb, make sure you are using the proper protection to avoid sun burns, blistering, or irritation. Residual limbs are prone to injury and should be properly covered when possible.
Be aware of the skin color around your limb. When removing your prosthesis, check your limb for redness or pressure patches that last for more than a few minutes; this may indicate your socket is causing unnecessary irritation and might need adjustments. An ill-fitting socket can lead to a number of issues and will cause irritation on your limb.
Is this normal?
You know your body better than anyone. If you think something seems off or you feel uncomfortable with how something looks, it’s time to contact your care team immediately to address any abnormalities or concerns.
Keeping up with your prosthetic device’s maintenance schedule will become second nature after the initial adjustment period. Your prosthetist will be able to tell you a general schedule for coming in to get routine adjustments or can help you determine if it’s time to replace or upgrade your device. Being open with your care team and keeping up with your device’s cleaning and maintenance will prolong its life and get you back on track to meeting your goals.
This content includes information provided by Amputee Coalition and First Step: A Guide for Adapting to Limb Loss. For more information or resources on caring for your prosthesis, please visit www.amputee-coalition.org.