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Is it time to replace your prosthetic?

Back to the Basics: Is it time to replace your prosthetic?

Is it time to replace your prosthetic?When it comes to prosthetic legs, one of the frequently asked questions is when to replace a prosthetic. In general, it doesn’t take long before the question comes up—how long will my prosthetic last?

The general rule of thumb is anywhere from a few months to about 3 years, but this depends on several factors including your age, activity level, and the amount of time since your amputation.

Age and Growth

To be honest, age is less a factor than growth or volume/shape changes that may occur in the limb.  Younger people are typically at higher risk of quickly outgrowing their prosthetics however, every amputee goes through some sort of change in the limb over an extended period of time.   The changes that occur may be related to weight loss or gain or may be due to loss muscle tissue in the limb.   If you notice your prosthetic is difficult to put on or suddenly feels uncomfortable or loose, it may be time to schedule an appointment to evaluate if it needs to be replaced.

Activity Level

Activity level also plays a huge role in how long a prosthetic lasts. A runner requires a different set up compared to someone trying to get through a day at the office. Additionally, you may want to do something new, which can require replacing your prosthetic or some of its parts.

It’s important not to let minor problems with a prosthetic drag out. Once you’ve had a prosthetic for a while, things happen that require repair or replacement, but waiting can hurt the performance of your prosthetic or do harm to your residual limb and other parts of your body, like your back.

Time Since Amputation

The amount of time since your amputation has a direct effect on how well your prosthetic fits and you may need to replace parts of your prosthetic, change its alignment, or add a number of socks in order to ensure a proper and comfortable fit during the first several months after limb loss. During this time is when big changes typically occur in the residual limb, especially shrinking.

A good relationship with your prosthetic is contingent on a good fit and maintaining full function of the limb. As the Amputee Coalition describes it, “Prostheses, like cars, need regular maintenance and repair to continue efficient functioning. Small adjustments can make a big difference.” If you have issues with one or the other of these, especially in the context of your age/growth, activity level, or time since amputation, you should consider making a trip to a qualified prosthetist to discuss replacement.

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