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What can I expect when I start to wear a prosthesis? How long will it take for me to be fitted for a prosthetic limb? What is the difference between orthotics and prosthetics? Here on the FAQ page, we address the most common questions you may have about your care, along with many other helpful bits of information and advice

Why opt for a prosthesis?

This should be based on your own needs, goals and life situation. Does appearance matter? What activities do you plan to participate in? Do you plan on running? Do you plan on biking? Do you plan on hiking? Do you plan on riding a motorcycle? These are things that you can discuss with your doctor, physical therapist and practitioner. Together, you can decide the option that’s best for you. 

When can I expect my prosthesis to be complete?

This can depend on a number of factors, including how fast your residual limb heals post-op. While some amputees start with a temporary prosthesis right away, a typical fitting takes place two to six months after the surgery takes place. A number of factors can impact this, including when the incision heals, whether the swelling has gone down, etc. 

Should I get rid of my crutches or wheelchair?

Not necessarily. Some amputees find them to be still useful in certain situations.  For instance, they can be useful when traveling long distances, getting up in the middle of the night, taking a shower, etc. 

What does the “K-level” refer to?

This is Medicare’s scale that they use to rate your potential of rehabilitation, and it’s common for private insurance companies to establish similar guidelines. The rating falls on a scale between 0-4, and where you’re at on the scale depends on a variety of factors. For instance, would your device work for you? How well would you be able to use it? Often, insurance and Medicare coverage will be dependent on the K-level, since they want to make sure you will be able to use it. 

How do you attach the prosthetic limb?

The limb itself is attached to a socket, and the socket is fitted over your residual limb. Between the socket and the limb is an additional layer called liner. The liner works to give you cushion and comfort while ensuring that the socket fit snugly. If the socket doesn’t fit properly, then it can lead to things such as sores, blisters and other pain.

What will my prosthesis look like?

Any way you want! You can have it be completely functional, or you can get cosmetic covers. These covers vary from mimicking the color of your skin to hot pink to camouflage to sporting a picture of your favorite team’s mascot. The color and pattern options are almost endless!

How much will a prosthesis cost?

The price range can vary, depending on what kind of device you receive. Most insurance companies will cover part of the cost, if not all of it. You may need to submit documentation, place a few phone calls and advocate for yourself. Check the coverage on your insurance and learn the limitations that are on it.  Make sure that the fit and alignment are covered with the cost of the prosthesis, and that you can continue to work with your prosthetist until you find a comfortable alignment and fit.

If you need help with some common insurance questions, check out the Amputee Coalition’s Insurance Coverage and Reimbursement Guide. A copy can be obtained by calling 888-267-5669.

Do you need to do follow-up appointments after I receive my prosthesis?

Yes, at least once a week after your first fitting, to make sure there isn’t any swelling. After that, one checkup every six months is good to make sure liners, alignment and socket are performing the way they should.

What should I do to prepare for my prosthesis?

Getting plenty of exercise is important to ensure that your muscles are properly strong and flexible for the prosthesis. Your physical therapist can recommend the proper exercise for you.  

Do I wear the prosthesis to bed?

No. They are worn during waking hours but removed when you go to sleep. However, you should be wearing what’s known as a “shrinker” when you’re not wearing your prosthesis. This device ensures that the residual limb maintains its shape and configuration. It can also reduce swelling and edema. Applying skin creams each night can also help. 

How long before I need to replace the prosthesis?

The answer to this can range depending on how active you are and what types of activities you take part in. The prosthesis can last anywhere from months to years. You may need to change your prosthesis out a few times in the months following your initial fitting, just because the skin of the residual limb can contract and shrink. 

Can I use the prosthesis in the shower?

We don’t suggest doing that, unless you have a prosthesis that is specifically water-proof. Many prostheses have metal parts, and they can rust in the shower.  However, you do need to keep the area around the prosthesis clean. 

Do I need a foot orthosis?

Foot orthosis can help those who have pain and fatigue that comes from improper biomechanics. If your feet don’t create a stable foundation, then that can cause pain when you walk or stand. Bunions, hammer toe, arch pain, heel pain and other localized foot pains can be symptoms of the type of improper biomechanics that call for foot orthotics. 

Will I lose muscle over time when I wear the orthosis?

No. In fact, an orthosis helps you use the correct muscles at the correct time, which in turn will eliminate fatigue and let your muscles work more efficiently

What ages are best for cranial remolding?

Typically, the ages of 4-7 months are ideal, although the remolding helmet can be placed on there between the ages of 3 to 18 months.

Are there different types of cranial remolding?

Absolutely. Each helmet is made specifically for an infant’s head to make sure it grows in the direction it needs to. However, there are different types of conditions that are treated by cranial helmets, including pagiocephaly, brachycephaly, scaphocephaly.   

What is the difference between orthotics and prosthetics?

Prosthetics refers to the science of creating, fitting and caring for artificial limbs while orthotics refers to the science of braces for your limbs, muscles and joints. 

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