James Middleton, CP - Prosthetics
Ernestine Crookedneck - Office Assistant, Ostomy Specialist, Prosthetic Tech
Megan Hughes- Office Assistant, Ostomy Specialist, Prosthetic Tech
1139 N 27th St
Billings, MT 59101
Call us at 406-252-6100 or use our contact form.
9 a.m. - 5 p.m. Monday-Friday
You have had an amputation, your residual limb is healing, and it is time to start thinking about a prosthesis. Here are some answers to common questions new amputees frequently ask. If you do not see the answer to your question(s), feel free to send us an e-mail or call us.
Q: What happens after the amputation? Are bionic limbs available that can make me just like I was before?
A: 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 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 physician, prosthetist, and therapist to address all of your concerns, and then to work with them on the process of design, fitting, and training, which are required to be a successful user.
Q: What does a prosthesis look like? How will it stay on?
A: Depending on your level of physical ability, type of amputation, and functional needs, each prosthesis will be somewhat different. If you desire a "cosmetic look," prosthetic supplements are available, but most standard prostheses are compromised of conventional component parts attached to a socket that fits over your residual limb.
Q: How does a prosthesis work? Will I be able to do all the things I did before I lost my limb?
A: 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.
Q: When will I get a prosthesis?
A: 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. This process can be attained with exercise and rehabilitation. During this stage, your medical team will also be concerned with maintaining proper shape of the residual limb, as well as increasing overall strength and function. Fitting us usually stress-free and involves several steps to create a unique prosthesis for you.
Q: What if the prosthesis doesn't fit right?
A: 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 need. The more you communicate with your prosthetist and therapist, the better you will be able to succeed with your prosthesis.
Q: How long will the prosthesis last?
A: 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 socks, or even a new device. Later on, increase 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 levels of activity, the prosthesis only needs minor repairs or maintenance and can last for an average of three years.
Q: Is it difficult to learn to use a prosthesis?
A: Learning to use a prosthesis is a tough job. It takes time, great effort, strength, patience, and perseverance. You will do best to work with a therapist while learning how to handle the new device. Much like learning how to operate a car, you will need guidance on how to:
Q: What can I do to prepare myself for a prosthesis?
A: There are various steps that you can and must take to be able to use a prosthesis well. The top priorities are:
Q: Will I need to use a wheelchair or crutches?
A: Some people elect not to use a prosthesis, relying solely on mobility devices; however, with a prosthesis the use of crutches or a wheelchair depends on several factors
including level of amputation, single or bilateral amputation, and your respective level of balance and strength. Most amputees have a pair of crutches for the times when the prosthesis 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.
Q: Once I have been fitted and feel comfortable in the prosthesis' functional, what will happen next?
A: Plan on making follow-up visits to your prosthetist a normal part of 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 function. Small adjustments can make a big difference.
Q: Can you break a limb down?
A: Yes, things can occur that will require repair or replacement, so it is a good idea to know about warranties and what to expect from your prosthetist. Get small problems taken care of promptly with your prosthetist. 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 the energy needed to use it. Early prevention is more valuable than long term treatment.