Answers to Frequently Asked Questions

Here at Orthotic and Prosthetic Specialists, we know that this is an important time in your life and you may have questions that need answering. Hopefully, this information will help. And always remember that we’re here to help. Don’t hesitate to schedule an appointment to come in and speak with one of our friendly experts!

What is the difference between prosthetics and orthotics?

Prosthetics is the branch of medicine that deals with evaluating, designing, fabricating, fitting and delivering a prosthesis or artificial limb to replace what is missing.  Orthotics involves bracing an existing part of the body. Commonly, people refer to “orthotics” as foot supports. “Orthoses” are the devices a person wears to enhance function and/or reduce or eliminate pain.

What is a Prosthesis?

A prosthesis is an externally applied device designed to replace a missing part of the body or to make a body part work better. This can include missing eyes, arms, hands, or legs.

What is a prosthetist?

A prosthetist is a healthcare professional who is specifically educated and trained to manage comprehensive prosthetic patient care. This includes patient assessment, formation of a treatment plan, implementation of the treatment plan, follow-up and practice management.

Why would someone need an amputation?

Amputations occur as a result of diabetes, necrotizing fasciitis and other bacterial infection, circulatory disease, and trauma. Some people may be born with non-functioning limbs (congenital birth defects) that can be made useful by reconstructive surgical techniques. Amputation is not a medical failure – it can save lives and ease chronic pain. It is an opportunity for the surgeon to fashion the most appropriate residual limb for prosthetic usage. It is a good idea to meet with your prosthetist prior to surgery if circumstances permit. Your prosthetist will want to look at the physical aspects of your limb, discuss with you possible fitting techniques, and assure you that, following amputation, you will get better and carry on with your life.

Why should I acquire a prosthetic limb?

A prosthetic limb can greatly enhance your quality of life after an amputation, regardless of the level of amputation. This includes amputations of the leg or arm as well as partial amputations of the foot or hand.

Lower Limb Amputations: With a lower limb amputation, above or below the knee, movement is limited and use of a wheelchair or crutches is necessary. With prosthesis you gain complete freedom of movement and avoid dependence on these devices. At worst, you may only need a cane or walker.

Upper Extremity Amputations: With an upper extremity amputation, above or below the elbow, you also benefit from a prosthesis. Many options are available based on what functions you desire your prosthesis to provide.

Partial Amputations: We also design and build prostheses for partial foot and partial hand amputationsWhether you have had part of your foot or toes amputated you can benefit from a partial foot insert. If one or more fingers have been amputated, there are several options, as well.  A partial hand prosthesis will   return significant  function because the replacement of  fingers will  again allow oppositional movement for grasping.

Can you fit me for mastectomy products?

Yes. We have an in-office specialist who strives to offer a comforting environment and an accurate fit with your post-mastectomy products.  We stock products from Amoena, Jodee, Nearly Me, and Trulife.

Do you make foot supports?

Yes. We have been making custom foot supports for years. The types vary based on the physical aspects of the problem presented.

Do I need a prescription to get a prosthesis?

Yes,  physician’s prescription is needed before a prosthesis can be made. However, prescriptions are not needed for initial evaluations.

Will I be able to use my prosthesis the same way I used my natural limb?

In many ways, yes! Although a prosthesis will never completely replace your natural limb, it can allow you to do many things you were able to do. This is dependent on your level of amputation. Patients with amputations below the knee do well and have the least  difficulty  returning to former lifestyles. Patients with amputations above the knee proceed more slowly but can return to former lifestyles. Patients with upper extremity amputations success varies, depending on personal desires and specific needs.

How long after amputation can I be fitted with a prosthesis?

Once you are discharged from the hospital, and with careful monitoring and care of the wound, fitting can begin after compression is properly applied and the sutures are removed.

How soon will I be walking?

Using up to date technology and techniques, including total surface bearing systems, you will be walking immediately after fit and alignment have been established.

What are the first steps to getting a prosthesis?

After receiving the appropriate prescription from your physician, we measure or make a mold of your residual limb to make a prosthetic socket. We then design the prosthesis and select the proper components, make and fit your prosthesis, instruct you on how to use and care for your prosthesis We also make repairs and adjustments as needed.

What if additional assistance is needed to wear the prosthesis?

We can help you locate other health professionals such as physical therapists or occupational therapists to additional instruction and training on using your prosthesis, as well as needed training or strengthening programs. We are also a resource for obtaining products needed to wear and care for your prosthesis, including socks and liners.

What if the prosthesis doesn’t fit right?

You will need several visits for adjustments and training. These adjustments can help ease pressure areas, improve alignment, solve problems that are encountered, and aid in regaining skills. Tell us if your prosthesis is uncomfortable, too loose or tight, or causing any skin issues such as blisters. Ask questions and speak honestly about your needs.

How does the weight of an artificial leg compare to a natural leg?

The weight of your prosthetic will depend on the type of limb and the components used. 4 lbs is the average weight of the typical below knee prosthetic. 8 lbs is the average weight of the typical above knee prosthetic.  A natural leg is commonly 1/6 of your bodyweight.

How long will my prosthesis last?

Depending on your age, amount of activity and growth, your prosthesis can last from months to years.  Once your prosthesis is comfortably adjusted and you are at your desired activity level, your prosthesis needs only minor repairs and  maintenance and it can last for an average of three years to five years.

What is phantom pain?

Phantom pain is used to describe sensations felt by amputees where the amputated limb had been located., It may include cramping, tingling, itching, pins-and-needles, stabbing pains, pressure, or a sense of fullness. Most amputees experience this, but the degree to which it is felt will vary. These sensations are intermittent and they will come and go unpredictably. New amputees may  have frequent and intense sensations several times every day, sometimes continuously for several hours. Over time, the sensations will generally become less frequent and intense, lasting for a shorter amount of time.

Can my prosthesis get wet?

Your prosthesis is not meant to get wet. Keep it as dry as possible. Some components could rust. There are covers that can go over your prosthesis and we can design and build you a special prosthesis designed for water activities including swimming, fishing.

What happens if a patient’s body size changes due to weight loss or weight gain?

Reevaluation of the fit of your prosthesis is necessary if there has been a change in condition. This would include: reduction of swelling, changes in post surgical swelling, weight loss or gain, additional surgery or any other changes.

Can you help with decisions related to an amputation or a revision?

Surgeons commonly involve us in the decision to amputate or revise a limb for prosthetic fitting. This consultation may include: types of prostheses, limb length or other related issues.

Can you recommend a support group for me?

We can direct you to support groups in your area and to organizations like ACA (Amputee Coalition of America).

Will this be covered by insurance?

We accept most private insurances as well as Medicare and Medicaid. We will help with the approval process and file the claim for you. Please contact our office with specific questions regarding your insurance.