Keeping your Prosthesis Clean

Using your prosthetic limb correctly, as well as cleaning it and keeping it maintained regularly, will help it last much longer. To keep your residual limb healthy, as well as avoid costly replacement expenses, there are a few steps that you can follow. Knowing how to care for your new prosthesis, or one that you’ve had for a while, will help keep your prosthetic limb in tip-top shape, as well as make you aware of any signs of damage that could be fixed early to avoid replacing it entirely. 

What is a prosthesis?

First off - what's a prosthesis? The definition of a prosthesis in the medical world is an artificial device that replaces a missing body part. A prosthesis is also known as an artificial limb, and is an externally applied device that is designed to make the loss of a limb less drastic for everyday life. Typically, body parts can be lost through trauma, through surgery because of a variety of diseases, or because of birth defects.

There are a variety of prostheses that are available to amputees. Passive prostheses are generally considered to be devices that are worn purely for cosmetic purposes. Functional prostheses, on the other hand, are devices that enable an amputee to perform tasks. These devices may or may not also serve a cosmetic purpose. Learn more about the history of prosthetics in our blog post

 

 

Caring for your Prosthetic Limb

Using your prosthetic limb correctly, as well as cleaning it and keeping it maintained regularly, will help it last much longer. To keep your residual limb healthy, as well as avoid costly replacement expenses, there are a few steps that you can follow. Knowing how to care for your new prosthesis, or one that you’ve had for a while, will help keep your prosthetic limb in tip-top shape, as well as make you aware of any signs of damage that could be fixed early to avoid replacing it entirely. 

Here are some ways to be sure that your prosthetic limb lasts for as long as possible.

 

 

Hygiene

On top of the frictional woes amputees face with their prosthetics, they must also concern themselves with both irritant contact dermatitis and allergic contact dermatitis. Unlike the breakdown caused by skin rubbing against a prosthetic, dermatitis is caused by the mere contact between skin and the material of the prosthetic and can result in skin aggravation, lesions, chronic inflammation, cellular damage, and even cancer. Many people are allergic to or irritated by certain materials, so if you notice irritation around your amputation site, consult with your physician, prosthetist, or dermatologist about changing the material or treating the problem. 

 

 

Like your socks and underwear, a prosthetic should be cleaned everyday. Excess perspiration can cause skin to break down faster and built up bacteria can lead to dangerous infections. In addition to cleaning your prosthetic, it is important to clean your amputation site. While feeling around for skin abnormalities may work for some amputees, others may have loss of feeling and can’t feel a problem area. For this reason, it is imperative that an amputee not only feel for damage, but also visually inspect their amputation site or have a friend or loved one inspect their skin for them. 

Clean skin is a necessity for prosthetic limb wearers. Many prosthetic limbs can trap heat and perspiration, causing bacteria to build up and grow. These bacteria, if left in the prosthesis, can cause skin irritations and, down the line, they can even cause abrasions. 

 

 

If skin rashes or negative reactions are noticed DO NOT use alcohol based cleaning supplies on your skin. Stick to fragrance-free soap and make sure that the liner is washed on a daily basis. The use of good hygiene becomes even more important with the addition of a prosthesis, so as long as you listen to your doctor and keep you affected limb clean, this problem should take care of itself. However, large blisters begin to show themselves, schedule an appointment with your prosthetist and remove the artificial limb until the area is healed. Upon reintroduction to the prosthetic limb, remove it every two hours and examine the area to make sure that it is working properly.

For information about residual limb hygiene, please view our blog post here

 

 

Other Cleaning Tips

  • Keep leather pieces dry and clean at all times, and try using saddle soap if cleaning is necessary.
  • Consult your prosthetist for tips on caring for the mechanical parts of your prosthetic limb.
  • Be sure that you meet with them for regular checkups of the mechanical portions of your limb.
  • Report loud or grating noises to your prosthetist.
  • Don’t adjust any mechanical parts or important components yourself.
  • Report damaged cables or damaged areas of your limb to your prosthetist. 
  • Store your prosthetic limb in a horizontal position, laying flat. 
  • You can sprinkle baking soda on your residual limb to avoid the bacteria and odors to the prosthetic limb that sweating can cause. 
  • Examine your residual limb every day. Any redness or pain should be reported to your doctor because this chaffing or wear can usually be corrected with simple adjustments to the prosthetic limb. 

 

Clean Socks, Liners, and Shrinker Socks

  • Since the liner touches your skin all day, you will need to clean it on a daily basis.
  • Change your socks daily to avoid infection or fungus build-up from daily use.
  • Wash the socks by hand with lukewarm water and mild soap.
  • Do not use detergent, and be sure that all of the soap is rinsed clean from the sock - otherwise the skin may become irritated.

 

 

Be sure to stay in contact with your prosthetic specialist and ask them about more of the potential mental and physical health benefits that could come with regular yoga sessions. Kenney Orthopedics is honored to be a part of this population and is host to several orthopedic specialists that are here to help every patient with any questions or concerns that might come up involving prosthetic limbs.

The highly qualified staff of Kenney Orthopedics will select, design, and fabricate the appropriate prostheses, prosthetic limb or device, or orthosis to fit your specific lifestyle and needs after your amputation. Visit us in Louisville or Lexington Kentucky, or at one of our other locations in Kentucky (KY) or Indiana (IN). We can help you get moving again with a prosthesis designed for you after your amputation!

 

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