For people who have lost a limb, the trauma can be devastating at first. However, there is hope. It can even be intimidating learning about the basic process of getting a prosthetic limb. This article will cover prosthetic basics and facts that can help you know what to expect as you take these next steps.
Every year, 300–500 people experience an amputation in the United States. Currently, about 2.1 million people live with limb loss. Globally, an amputation takes place about once every 30 seconds. The prevalence of amputation has encouraged investment in the prosthetic industry, and the technology advancements have made huge strides over the last few decades. We even have a prosthetics division at The Surgical Clinic!
Have Patience and Learn about Prosthetic Basics
Knowing about timeframes is the first lesson in prosthetic basics. The waiting period for limb fitting begins once the surgical site has healed and all swelling subsides — usually between two and six months after surgery. Physical therapy begins after the limb arrives. The length of physical therapy varies by the patient but can take up to a year.
Appointments to adjust the prosthetic will continue over time as the body changes and to adapt the new limb for comfort and better function. People sometimes need new prosthetics as they become more physically active or want to participate in different sports. Growing children need replacements to keep up with their body growth.
Everything Is Possible
Amputees work as models and athletes; even with a prosthetic, you can work in every industry. The key is to follow the instructions from the prosthetist and to seek help when the comfort or fit is not adequate. Daily use and small goal setting help people to become accustomed to their new limb and more confident with their potential.
A healthy fitness routine and diet are more important than ever after an amputation. Muscle strength, coordination and a healthy weight make it easier to stay active. Just as it is with any skill, practice makes the use of the prosthetic easier and more natural.
Support Is Available
The Amputee Coalition is a national non-profit that helps people to connect with support groups. The coalition helps to raise awareness of the need for amputee support and offers advice and resources for concerns and issues many new amputees experiences.
Independent support groups are located around the country. Many surgical clinics can offer suggestions about where to find local groups. An online search can also help to give the contact information for in-person groups as well as online clubs.
In fact, our own Daryl Farler is both an amputee and an avid runner. He even founded the Amputee Support Association and was featured in the Nashville Business Journal’s 40 Under 40 of 2017.
Technology Is Improving
Researchers around the globe continue the advancement of prosthetics. Some improvements are in limited use today and others are goals expected to be reached within the next decade or two. Some are seemingly simple achievements like ankle joints that have more natural movements for easier stair climbing. Other advancements in prosthetics are more complex.
An example of the more complex designs includes motorized fingers that sense what the hand grasps for more control over the strength or delicateness of touch. Surgically implanted interfaces that integrate with the nerves and the bones are another technology that companies continue to work towards.
The interface system combined with research to help the skin grow into the materials of a prosthetic could one day lead to permanent connections artificially designed limbs. The improvement would mean the end of sores on the skin from prosthetic movement. The brain would have the ability to recognize the limb and work with it naturally.
Visit the Prosthetic Institute at The Surgical Center
Improvements in technology take place every day, and the resources for amputees are more effective than ever to help make the transition easier. At The Surgical Clinic, our surgical and prosthetic teams work closely together to create a comfortable process for our patients. We will help you to find the best solution for your needs and will be there to support you throughout. Contact us to learn more about what we have to offer.