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Prosthesis - What you may not know...

By Rosie Hewitt
Rehabilitation And Delegated Claims Manager

On becoming an amputee, how soon does an amputee get a leg?

After amputation the residual limb (or stump) is often very sensitive and prone to break down, yet it’s important to get up and get mobile as possible quickly. Diabetics are particularly susceptible to skin breakdown.


To start mobilising, amputees start off using an inflatable walking aid designed for partial weight-bearing. The stump goes in a cage-like device which is then pumped full of air to hold it in place. This allows new amputees to take their first steps and begin to feel what wearing a prosthetic leg is like whilst in the safety of a gym environment and under the guidance of a physiotherapist.

What about showering and water sports?

Many components in a prosthetic leg are sensitive to moisture. Therefore most amputees take their legs off when showering but also due to the importance of keeping stumps clean. The adaptation of a home shower to have a seat is a common requirement and one often seen in claims.

Yet there are work arounds – there are waterproof airtight covers which fit on over the leg and keep the prosthetic protected and waterproof limbs are also available. Some amputees prefer to do water sports or swim with their prosthetics on. This may be for practical or body image reasons. If on a waterproof leg the amputee wants a cosmesis (to make the leg look more lifelike), one disadvantage is that they can fill up with water.

To prevent this holes are often made to enable water to drain out, i.e. an Aqua Foot which has treads on the sole for extra traction on slippery areas, is sealed on the top against water but includes a plug on the bottom.

Can amputees wear high heels?

Heather Mills can, so yes. But it’s no easy task and an amputee will need legs which allow them to do so. Heels push the centre of gravity forward and on prosthetics this can be hard to control and requires strong core stability and balance.

But how is it possible to get a high heeled shoe on if it's not possible to wriggle your foot into it?

There is a button, usually on the inside of the leg by the ankle, which can be pressed and held in while the foot is moved up and down until it's at the right height. Stop the button and the foot will stay in that position.

Ever wondered where all the old legs go?

Many amputees collect a stockpile of prosthetics over the years. The classic scenario is where old, unused or badly fitting prosthetics are stacked by the side of a chair or in a cupboard. So it is important for the amputee and claims handler to get and fund the right prosthesis that will last for a considerable time. And also for the amputee to ensure the prosthesis is serviced