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How to Travel by Air in the US with a Prosthesis

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Traveling through high-security airports in the US with a prosthesis is a challenge. Not only do you still have the long lines to wait in and the usual stress of traveling, you also have additional difficulties and awkwardness that come from having a prosthesis.

Most airports have a special line for those with disabilities. These lines are usually fully staffed with both male and female assistants to get you through the screening process as efficiently as possible. Although, be aware; this line can also be a nightmare if combined with the family with kids line.

What to Expect at the Screening

How to Manage Phantom Limb Pain

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Phantom limb pain is a burning, twisting, itching, or a feeling of pressure that comes from a limb that is no longer there. The limb is gone, but the pain is real. Despite what you might think, this pain is a common problem with amputees, especially soon after surgery. The type and length of pain varies from person to person; some people experience the pain for only a few seconds while others have the pain for many days. Luckily, for most people, PLP (phantom limb pain) decreases in frequency and duration during the first six months. However, some amputees may continue to experience some level of pain for years.

Causes of Phantom Limb Pain

Phantom limb pain is thought to be caused by mixed signals from your brain or spinal cord. New treatment therapies for PLP attempt to change these misfiring signals.

Orthotic Treatment for the Osteoarthritic Knee

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Some studies have shown that orthoses devices have small, yet significant, beneficial effects for those with osteoarthritic knees. The study subjects found that using a knee brace increased the distance they were able to walk and, they also noticed that wearing certain types of orthoses, such as insoles to correct the alignment of the foot, decreased pain and increased function.

If other treatments have not worked for you, or you cannot seek other treatments for various reasons, try using these orthoses devices to stabilize your knees and joints. If you think this would be a helpful treatment for you, work with your health care providers to find the perfect fit for your needs. Follow their instructions precisely to protect your other joints, avoid skin chafing and discomfort, and to get the best results.

You can buy off-the-shelf braces, inserts, and other orthoses from stores or you can have a custom device designed specifically for you. Talk to your doctor to see which option would be right for you.

How to Care for Your Prosthesis

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The Liner

  • Wash your prosthetic liner daily using a damp cloth with mild detergent to wipe it out.
  • Dry with a towel and leave it to dry overnight. NEVER put your liner in the washing machine or clothes dryer. This may damage or destroy it.
  • DO NOT use Dettol or other solvents to clean your socket or liner.

The Socket

  • Clean your socket weekly by wiping it with a damp cloth with mild detergent.
  • Dry completely before putting it back on.
  • You do not need to use an antiseptic.
  • DO NOT use Dettol or other solvents to clean your socket or liner.

Prosthetic Components

  • DO NOT clean any of your prosthetic components since they require specific maintenance that should only be done by your prosthetist. If you are worried about any of your components, contact us.

Stump Socks

  • Prosthetic stump socks are available in various materials and thicknesses. Use different combinations of socks to achieve the most comfortable fit as your residual limb changes shape and volume. You may need to add a second sock as the day progresses.

Cleaning the Stump Socks

  • Change and clean your socks DAILY.

Do’s and Don’ts for Prosthetic Stump Sock Cleaning:

  • DO:
    • Use an approved wool detergent to wash your stump socks by hand
    • Roll your prosthetic stump socks in a towel to blot out the extra water
    • Squeeze suds gently through the prosthetic stump
    • Rinse with clear, warm water
  • DON’T:
    • Use hot water. This will make your socks shrink.
    • Twist or wring out your wet socks
    • Dry your socks in the clothes dryer

With the Ertl Procedure, Amputation Should Not Be Considered Failure

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Amputation should not be viewed as just an amputation. It should be thought of as a procedure that provides patients with a functional residual limb that fits well with a prosthesis and is meant to improve the quality of the patient’s life. With the Ertl Procedure, an amputee will fit well in their prosthetic socket and experience greater comfort.

The Ertl Procedure

The Ertl Procedure builds a bone bridge between the tibia and the fibula. This bridge allows an amputee to bear weight on their residual limb and experience no pain when the residual limb settles into the socket. An amputee who has not gone through this procedure will experience greater pain and discomfort when this happens as their activity levels increase throughout the day. Save yourself from additional pain—get the Ertl Procedure done to increase your comfort and the quality of your life.

New Limb, New Life

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Amputees are some of the most resilient individuals and are endowed with strength to face their difficulties as they deal with the loss of their limbs and prosthetics. Many of these patients make the difficult choice to amputate because of an accident, illness, or a medical condition. Adjusting to a new life with a new limb is a challenge. It requires the strength to persevere, but it is possible to live a fulfilling life.

Psychological Impact

When an individual is unable to prepare for the amputation of a limb, they struggle to adjust to their prosthetics in comparison to those who were able to prepare for the medical procedure. Therefore, working toward getting a prosthetic replacement sooner rather than later helps the patient adjust more quickly to their new situation and produces acceptance of their future. Immediate fitting of a prosthetics and rehabilitation engenders in the patient more hope for the future and a positive outlook of living with a prosthetic. There will inevitably be feelings of denial and anger, but planning for a prosthetic will help alleviate these feeling of loss, anger, and despondency.

Emotional Support

When patients go through rehabilitation and mobility adjustment in a supportive environment, they adjust to their prosthetics better and faster. Working with a team of medical caretakers ensures that the patient will receive all that they need to return to a normal life.

Patients also adjust better to prosthetics when they feel supported by friends and family. Being in the company of loved ones helps patients accept this life-changing event and helps them feel more accepting of their new prosthetic limbs. If you are a caregiver or family member of someone who is undergoing rehabilitation, try to remain positive and sympathetic as you help the amputee adapt to their new life and routine.

Why Support Groups Work

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When you or someone you know is facing amputation or limb loss, support groups are a comforting resource that provide invaluable connections with those who have struggled with the same hardship. Support groups offer you or those you love with useful information, support, and encouragement while you face this difficult time of life.

Getting advice and encouragement from someone who has successfully gone through a similar ordeal is a great turning point in the recovery process. Amputee survivors can answer any of your concerns and comfort you when life feels too hard to bear. The Amputee Coalition of America has trained over 1,000 volunteers who have gone through or know someone who has gone through amputation and rehabilitation. You and your family members can contact any of these volunteers in person, by phone, or via email to receive help and support.

There are over 300 registered support groups throughout the country in the Amputee Coalition. Visit their support group page to find the group nearest you.

Connect with others on the Amputee Coalition of America’s Facebook page to instantly meet people who have the experience and ability to empathize with you and offer reassurance and support.

The Importance of Follow-Up Appointments with Your Prosthetist/Orthotist

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Your prosthetic is customized to fit you exactly and it is important for you to attend your follow-up appointments to ensure that your new prosthetic is comfortable and functional.

The Process

After your measurements are taken and casted, your prosthetist will create a clear, plastic check socket that you will wear for no longer than a week to test the fit. If it feels comfortable to you, a laminated socket will be created within another week.

At your next appointment, we will check the fit of the new socket and your prosthesis. If no adjustments are necessary, you can take your new prosthesis home with you! If it doesn’t fit just right, we will make corrections and have you return in about 3-5 work days to try it on again. After optimal comfort level is reached, your new prosthesis will finally be yours.

Follow-Up Appointments

It will take a few weeks for you to feel comfortable with your new prosthesis, so it is important for you to make all of your follow-up appointments for your health and safety.

We recommend that you schedule follow-up appointments every week for the first month after receiving your prosthesis to make sure you are breaking in your prosthesis correctly, to check that there is no skin breakdown, and to make adjustments if necessary. If all is going well, your additional follow-up appointments will only be scheduled once every month for the next 5 months. After 6 months in your prosthesis, follow-up at least once every 6 months.

If you have any concerns about the fit of your test socket or your prosthesis, do not hesitate to contact us at 913-338-3627.

The Importance of Physical Therapy with Your New Orthosis/Prosthesis

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If you have suffered from an amputation, it is important for you to begin physical therapy and rehabilitation as soon as possible to restore normal mobility and function and especially to learn how to properly adjust to and use orthosis and prosthesis.

Here are some processes and treatments your physical therapist will provide during rehabilitation:

  • Proper Care for Your Residual Limb. Learn to recognize signs indicating the incision from surgery is healing correctly or incorrectly.
  • Shaping of Your Residual Limb. Your physical therapist will teach you how to wrap your limb in such a way to maintain the proper shape so you can fit prostheses more easily.
  • Desensitization Techniques. Another concern after amputation is phantom limb pain, caused by your altered nerve signals from your residual limb. Your physical therapist can teach you desensitization techniques to help with the sensitivity and phantom pain, helping you be more comfortable before using prosthesis.
  • Use of Orthotics with Prosthesis. An Orthosis is an external appliance that is placed on the body to restrict or assist motion. Because an amputee is at risk for additional problems—back, knee, or hip pain, muscle weakness, reduced sensation, and overuse of the remaining whole limb—the use of orthosis is extremely important in preventing these secondary conditions with prosthetic use. Your physical therapist can teach you how to use orthotics to avoid and deal with these issues.
  • Proper Fit and Alignment of Prosthesis. Your physical therapists will assist you with this so that your prosthetic can function safely and help you function as normally as possible to avoid over-use or dependence of the remaining whole limb.

Prosthetic Sock Management

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People with lower amputated limbs wake in the morning with their prostheses fitting correctly but, by the end of the day, they feel loose and uncomfortable. There is a simple explanation and solution to this problem.

The human bodies’ fluid level fluctuates throughout the day. In the morning, an amputee’s residual limb may be slightly swollen, causing the prosthetic to fit and feel snug. But as the day goes by, the swelling reduces, causing the prosthetic to feel loose.

Alleviate your discomfort by changing the ply, or thickness, of your prosthetic sock.

Ply Prosthetic Socks

Socks come in a variety ply to accommodate for fluid reduction. These socks are measured by the width at the top and the bottom of the sock and also by the overall length. A one ply sock is approximately 2 millimeters while a five ply sock measures approximately 10 millimeters.

The Right Fit & Combination

If your prosthetic socket is flexible, use a lower sock ply for comfort. If your socket is rigid, use a thicker sock ply to cushion the residual limb. If you have a new prosthesis, start with a one 3 ply prosthetic sock and make adjustments as you see fit. If your prosthetic sock feels too tight, try for a thinner sock or reduce the number of socks worn. If your socket feels too loose, try a thicker sock or add an additional sock for support.

Also consider using a combination of different ply socks to get the perfect fit and to increase thickness as your residual limb loses volume. But be cautious: if you have excessive sock ply (more than 10 ply), you can cause instability and unnecessary pressure on your residual limb.

If you cannot find the right combination or thickness and still experience discomfort, contact your prosthetist for assistance.

Cotton Orthotic and Prosthetic Associates
6311 West 110th Street
Overland Park, KS 66211