In our day to day life we are constantly making decisions. When deciding on what bread to buy from the shop, we may spend seconds. When deciding on something that will impact on our lifestyle or health, we tend to take more time and effort. Usually we start by collecting basic information ourselves before speaking to different specialists to further develop our understanding and compare professional opinions.
This article explores the different situations for new and experienced amputees when making a meaningful choice on their prosthetic limb.
We would like to stress that this is only a general guide for amputees. As everyone is an individual, it is important for you to take control of your own life and make informed decisions by discussing your situation with your own healthcare professionals.
It is always worth asking them “why?”.
For the new amputee, prosthetics can seem quite daunting and it is common to rely solely on the first advice given. Leading up to and after amputation, there are many changes happening in life that can make prosthetics seem like a low priority. However this first experience is very important for better recovery and begins with the gathering of information.
Specialized websites, government organizations and amputee support groups should be the first origins of such information.
Specialised websites can help explain the basics on modern prosthetics by providing information on modern approaches, technologies, components and introduce basic medical words related to prosthetics.
Government organisations such as your local rehabilitation clinic can give specialised information about your individual situation.
Amputee support groups can provide essential advice and opinions from other amputees who have already been through the rehabilitation process.
The photo above shows the example of the literature provided by government organisation. Guide book issued by QALS for amputees and specialists.
The photo above shows an example of the web page of the amputee support group. Webpage of Limbs4Life.
The photo above shows an exaple of the webpage written by an experienced amputee, where he shares his experience in different prosthetic modules.
The photo above shows an example of the webpage written by an experienced amputee, where he shares his experience in osseointegration.
We have listed the sources of information above in this order for a reason. By having a basic understanding of prosthetics and knowing the meaning of some specific words health professionals use, the new amputee will be able to have a more meaningful conversation with their health care provider. Once the new amputee has a basic understanding of prosthetics and their individual situation, they can develop this understanding further by sharing experiences, thoughts and concerns with other amputees.
The information gathered at this time starts to form an idea in the new amputees head of what the prosthetic limb will be like when finished. This expectation can sometimes be very different from the final result and it is important to understand why this can be a problem.
Expectations that are too high and unrealistic can lead to unachievable goals being set resulting in the inevitable disappointing outcome with rehabilitation.
Too low of an expectation can de-motivate a new amputee and end with the rehabilitation team settling for a lower result.
A realistic expectation will allow the amputee to focus on achievable goals and it is more likely that they will be satisfied with their finalised prosthetic limb.
To help formulate a set of realistic goals, below are some examples of questions to ask your prosthetic provider:
Why is this socket design recommended for me?
Why is this method of fixation recommended for me?
Why is this foot/knee recommended for me?
What other options are available?
What should I expect in the short term?
What is the plan for future rehabilitation?
What to do if I have problems with the prosthesis when it is finished?
How often will I need to see my prosthetist for reviews?
During the interim period of rehabilitation, the new amputee will experience a number of changes as they become more experienced at using their prosthesis.
An experienced amputee is someone who has successfully completed their interim prosthetic rehabilitation program. Whether this happened last week or over 10 years ago, it is still worth taking the time to look at the available information about prosthetics and see what new options may be available.
As we mentioned above for the new amputee, this information can be gathered from several different sources. An experienced amputee would normally be oriented in basic prosthetic principles, be aware of local government organisations and amputee support groups. For those who are not, it is always a good time to start.
When visiting your prosthetist to review the results of a previous prosthetic designs/treatment, it is a great opportunity to talk about your goals, discuss what new options are available and ask the most important question “why”.
It is vital that the amputee understands why something is being done. By actively asking questions, the amputee will gain a better understanding of their prosthesis and allow the prosthetist to adjust future goals to their individual requirements. We all learn and understand in different ways, so it important to make sure the answers make sense to you. If you are not sure, ask again. It is always a good idea to compare different professional opinions.
Below are some examples of questions that can help an amputee understand their situation and make goals for their future prosthetic limb:
Did I achieve my previous goals? If not, then why?
Does my existing prosthesis meet my current requirements?
If there is an unresolved problem, why does it persist?
Is the technology used in my current prosthesis still appropriate for me? Why?
Would I benefit from a change to a more modern design?
What are my goals for the next limb?
What can we do if I have problems with the new prosthesis when it is finished?
How often will I need to see my prosthetist for reviews?
Before starting the process of getting fitted with a new artificial limb it is important for the amputee to clearly understand what their current condition is, what their new goals are and what advantages they will get from their new prosthetic design.