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How Long Do Prostheses Last?

By Georgia Prosthetics

When you received your prosthesis, you were likely delighted by the change it made to your lifestyle. But if you are wearing a prosthesis for the first time, you are likely wondering how long the device will last.

The lifespan of a prosthesis will depend on many different factors, including the type, the material it is made from and your routine activities.

At Georgia Prosthetics, our technicians individually create each device. Not only does this ensure a comfortable fit, our attention to detail will give you a strong and durable prosthesis. We will also guide you in proper care and maintenance to help your device last as long as possible.

Contact our office to learn more or to begin your prostheses journey at our state-of-the-art facility.

How do prostheses work?

With our ever-expanding technology, today’s patients have a huge range of prosthetic limbs to choose from. In general, however, a prosthesis connects to a socket. It is the socket that keeps the device connected to the residual limb. Usually, a socket will need to be replaced sooner than the prosthesis itself. 

Our sockets are custom-crafted and anatomically designed for each patient. We also offer several types of sockets. These include vacuum sockets, locking pin suspension, and seal-in liners. All of these can provide a more secure fit with reduced friction and negligible discomfort. The right type of socket for you will depend on the type of prosthesis you receive, the health and size of your residual limb, your lifestyle, and your doctor’s recommendation.

Prosthetic feet and knees

Prosthetic feet and knees, as well as the connecting sockets, can last between several months and several years. On average, they will last for about three to five years. Typically, your first prosthesis will have a shorter lifespan. This is because your residual limb will likely change as you adjust to your new way of moving. You may not require an entirely new prosthesis, but you will probably need a new socket or a liner adjustment at the very least.

Additionally, as you get used to wearing your prosthesis, you may find that you want to increase your activity level. You may need to make changes to your device or even receive a new one to achieve your new goals.

Upper extremity prostheses

Prosthetic hands, arms, and elbows have a similar lifespan to lower limb prostheses. Again, you may require more frequent adjustments at first as you acclimate to wearing the device.

When should you replace a prosthesis?

There are multiple reasons that your physician may recommend replacing your prosthesis. These include:

  • Notable changes in your health
  • Significant changes in your residual limb, such as limb shrinkage
  • New functional considerations
  • Your prosthesis is lost or stolen
  • Your device is severely damaged

When replacing a damaged prosthesis, Medicare will only cover it if the cost of repair exceeds 60% of the cost of a new device. To receive coverage, you will need a signed order from your physician and supporting medical records.

Factors that affect the lifespan of a prosthesis

The durability of a prosthesis can vary widely from person to person. Factors that influence the longevity of a device include:

  • How well a patient cares for their prosthesis
  • The activity level of the wearer (more active users will likely need a new prosthesis sooner)
  • How long a person has been wearing a prosthesis (changes to the residual limb are more dramatic immediately after amputation)
  • The age of the patient (children and teens could outgrow their prostheses)

Appropriate care for a more durable device

Your ongoing maintenance can extend the lifespan of your prosthesis. To protect your device:

  • Clean your prosthesis daily, using a damp fabric and non-abrasive soap. Be extra vigilant about washing the socket and any part that comes in contact with your skin. This will help protect your device, but more importantly, it will prevent significant skin irritation. Allow the socket to air dry overnight.
  • Cleaning the socket and the outside of the prosthesis with rubbing alcohol can prevent bacteria from building up. Check with your doctor or prosthetist to make sure this is appropriate for your device.
  • Some prostheses cannot be immersed in water. Follow all provided instructions. If your device is one that shouldn’t get completely wet, do not bathe or go swimming while wearing your prosthesis.
  • Do not attempt to adjust or repair your prosthesis on your own. This includes trying to improve the fit with cushions or pads. Doing so can result in costly damage.
  • When you are not wearing it, store your prosthesis To avoid extreme heat, do not keep it in direct sunlight or in your car.
  • If you wear a prosthetic knee or foot, be judicious when purchasing new shoes. Make sure that the heel height is the appropriate size for your device.
  • If you wear a prosthetic knee, be gentle when kneeling to avoid undue stress on the joint.
  • When wearing a suspension prosthesis, follow all instructions when washing any straps or belts.
  • Your prosthesis may have an outer covering called a cosmesis. Do not try to remove this covering or see what is underneath. This will affect the appearance, and it could also render the device ineffective and unsafe.

Another important thing to note: A prosthetic user should always have 2 liners. It is critical that the liner gets cleaned after each use. The soap used is important because if it is harsh and does not rinse out well and leaves a film, it can irritate the skin.

Antibacterial soap rinses out poorly and can cause problems. Baby shampoo is great because it cleans well and then rinses out well. It is inexpensive and easily obtained.

If the skin reacts to the use of a liner, it is rare that it is an allergic reaction to the liner itself, but most often a reaction to the soap that is used. The liners also wear out and stretch out through normal use and should be replaced annually.

Seeking your doctor’s opinion

Even if your prosthesis seems to be working just fine, it is still advisable to visit your physician once a year for an evaluation. Your doctor can pinpoint any looseness or problems with your prosthesis. Plus, he or she will also need to assess your residual limb and address any discomfort or phantom limb pain.

Contact Georgia Prosthetics to learn more

When you visit Georgia Prosthetics, you can rest assured that you will receive a high-quality device. Whether you need your first prosthesis or you are looking to replace an existing one, we are ready to provide the personalized, expert care that you deserve.

Schedule your free consultation today!

You can use our online contact form or give us a call at 404-873-3725.