Condition: A prosthetic is an artificial substitute for a missing body part that is used to restore the function of that body part or for cosmetic purposes. Lower limb prosthetics are those that are used in the legs, knees, ankles and feet.
Background: Approximately 30,000-40,000 amputations are performed in the U.S. each year, and roughly 1.5 million people are living with a lost limb. Many of them use a lower limb prosthetic.
Risk Factors: Poor blood flow causes infections and tissue to die, which means people who have poor blood flow are at greater risk for amputation. Particularly, people between 50-75 who have diabetes or plaque inside their artery walls are at risk.
History and Symptoms: When determining the best lower limb prosthetic, a physician considers the patient’s personal situation, such as their employment, level of independence or whether or not they hope to take part in sports.
Physical Exam: Before prescribing a lower limb prosthetic, physicians assess many factors, such as how well the existing limbs function; the condition of the residual limb; the stability of the joints as well as the patient’s weight and mental capacity.
Diagnostic Process: Typically patients are given a temporary prosthesis which is worn for several months. After the residual limb heals and conforms to a healthy shape, a more permanent prosthesis is fitted and used.
Rehab Management: It takes individuals time to adjust to lower limb prosthetics. Typically, six to 12 months are spent with a rehab team, relearning how to walk, balance, coordinate and other activities. If the prosthesis is uncomfortable, physicians can often adjust them.
Other Resources for Patients and Families: Strong support from family and caregivers is important. Groups such as the Amputee Coalition’s Peer Support Program can help.