Original article by Erik Schaffer, CP
Translated into plain language by Helen Osborne of Health Literacy Consulting

Prostheses are expensive and can cost as much as new cars. High-tech prostheses (electric or computer-controlled) may cost even more. You should protect the prosthesis just as you do any investment that costs a lot of money. This not only keeps your prosthesis working well but can also save you time and money and keep you from getting hurt. Here are some ways to protect your prosthetic investment.

Have prosthetic check-ups

Just like cars, prostheses can break down from wear and tear. You can prevent a lot of problems by asking a prosthetist to check your prosthesis 3 or 4 times each year. This way, the prosthetist can find and fix any problems before they get worse. This helps to:

  • Protect you from injury if your prosthesis does not fit the way it should.
  • Prevent bigger and more costly prosthetic problems that your insurance company might not pay for.
  • Keep your prosthesis in good working shape for many years.

Ask your prosthetist to make all needed repairs

All prostheses, even basic ones, are designed to fit your body and withstand stress. They are complex and you should not fix them yourself. Instead, ask your prosthetist to make all needed repairs. Here are some reasons why:

  • Doing your own repairs can damage the prosthesis, cost you money, and put you at risk for injury.
  • Changing the socket, alignment, or any settings might result in extra wear and tear on the prosthesis
  • Fixing your own prosthesis can void the warranty (when the manufacturer will not pay for any more repairs) on part of all of the prosthesis

Prevent your prosthesis from being lost or stolen

Be as careful with your prosthesis as you are with money, jewelry, or other valuables. Here are some ways to protect your investment:

  • Bring your prosthesis with you on airplanes rather than check it as baggage.
  • Do not keep your prosthesis in an empty car as it could get stolen.
  • Do not leave your prosthesis in a car on hot, sunny days. The heat can damage the sockets, components, and adhesives.
  • Do not lean your prosthesis against hot radiators as the heat can damage it.
  • Do not store money, jewelry, or other valuables inside your prosthesis. I know a jeweler who once put pouches filled with diamonds in the space between his prosthetic socket and frame. One day, a robber saw what he was doing and stole the prosthesis and the diamonds!

Protect your prosthesis from water

Water and prostheses are not a good mix. Your prosthesis will last longer and have fewer problems when you protect it from water and other liquids. Here are some facts to know:

If you have an electric or computer-controlled prosthesis and it gets wet, bring it to the prosthetist right away. Water will damage this type of prosthesis.

If you have a prosthesis that is NOT electric or computer-controlled, you can apply either a silicone or vacuum-sealed latex waterproof covering.

  • Silicone covering. This is sold “off-the-shelf” in small, medium and large sizes . You can also get a silicone covering made just for you but it will cost a lot more money.
  • Vacuum-sealed latex covering. This covering slides over the prosthesis and is made to be used underwater. It allows people with below-knee and upper-extremity amputations to take showers or go swimming. Ask your prosthetist if you can use this type of covering, as some prostheses cannot be in water at all. If you can use it, you might be able to buy this covering on the Internet for less than $50.

If you have a prosthesis that is NOT electric or computer-controlled, here is what you can do if it gets wet.

  • Use a towel to dry all parts of your prosthesis. Make sure to dry the metal bolts and attachments as water can cause rust.
  • Flush your prosthesis with fresh water if it gets exposed to salt (ocean) water. Then rinse and dry all parts where it might rust.
  • Bring the prosthesis to your prosthetist.
  • Ask your prosthetist if you should oil the prosthesis to prevent future problems.

 

About the Author

Erik Schaffer, CP, is the president of A Step Ahead Prosthetics in Hicksville, New York.

 

 

Translated from Protecting Your Prosthetic Investment
www.amputee-coalition.org/inmotion/jan_feb_06/protecting_investment.html

Last updated: 02/05/2009
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