Your recovery will progress in stages. This sheet tells you what to expect during each stage. Keep in mind that not everyone follows this exact timeline. Your progress depends on your overall health, your diagnosis, and age.
The 5 basic stages are:
Recovering in the hospital
Preparing for your prosthesis
Getting fitted for your prosthesis
Learning to use your prosthesis
Returning to routine activities
After surgery, you’ll stay in the hospital about 3 to 7 days. Older people or people with other health problems may stay longer. During this stage, the main goals are:
Taking care of your wound as it heals
Stretching and strengthening your muscles
Learning to transfer safely between your bed and other surfaces
Learning to use walking aids as needed
Learning to manage daily living skills
After you arrive home, you may start to prepare for your prosthesis fitting. This stage may take 3 to 4 weeks. During this stage, the main goals are:
Taking care of your wound (with sutures or staples still in)
Keeping your residual limb straight as often as you can
Continuing exercises learned in the hospital
Moving safely at all times to prevent falls
Keeping all follow-up appointments
Once your wound has healed, your first visit to the prosthetist may take place. He or she will start fitting you for a prosthesis. About 3 weeks after the first fitting, you’ll receive a preparatory (sometimes called temporary) prosthesis. During this stage, the main goals are:
Daily care of your residual limb
Daily use of a shrinker sock
Desensitization and scar massage
Continued stretching and strengthening of muscles
You will use the preparatory prosthesis until your residual limb has reached a stable size. This can take 2 to 6 months. Then you may receive a definitive (sometimes called permanent) prosthesis. This prosthesis may have a more natural look or have more advanced parts. Or, you will continue to use the preparatory prosthesis and it will serve as your definitive prosthesis. During this stage, you’ll learn how to:
Don (put on) and doff (take off) the prosthesis
Adjust sock ply (thickness)
Walk with your prosthesis using parallel bars
Use a walking aid (such as a walker or cane)
Walk without an aid, if possible
Care for and clean the prosthesis
Gradually increase the length of time the prosthesis is worn each day
When you’re ready, you may resume many activities that have been part of your life. But life may present new challenges. As you become more active, keep these goals in mind:
Work with your healthcare team to maintain your health
Develop a support system of family and friends
Return to meaningful activities such as a job, volunteer work, or social activities
Practice coping techniques, such as meditation and relaxation to help you deal with new challenges as they arise
During recovery, you may need to contact members of your amputation team. Call your:
Surgeon or primary care doctor if you notice signs of infection in your healing wound. Watch for sores or wounds that appear on your residual limb. And call if you fall or receive a blow to your limb.
Physical therapist if you have trouble walking, doing exercises, or if you experience stiffness.
Prosthetist if your prosthesis feels loose, rubs, or pinches your residual limb.
Social worker if you need home assistance or help with insurance.
Psychologist or peer counselor if you could use more emotional support.
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