It is quite common that a physician or physical therapist may suggest or direct you to a specific prosthetic facility. You should inquire as to why they recommend this facility as opposed to another. Keep in mind that ultimately the choice of the prosthetic facility is up to you. In my thirty-four years of experience in prosthetics, I feel that many physical therapists and physicians, in general, are ill-informed and ill-equipped to give the amputee initial information and guidance regarding the field of prosthetic rehabilitation.
Being fit with a prosthesis is a complicated, time-consuming and expensive undertaking. Being an informed consumer is your best bet for a successful outcome. A good place to start is to ask amputees in your area. I have found that most individuals with an amputation are eager to share their experiences with others and can be a wealth of information that must not be overlooked. You may wish to check and see if there is an amputee support group in your area, or perhaps ask your doctor or therapist if they know of an amputee(s) who would offer peer support.
A prosthesis is a custom-fabricated device fabricated directly from a plaster cast, molds and measurements taken by the prosthetist. The fit of the prosthetic socket, (what your residual limb fits into), may be the most crucial component of your prosthesis. Other components such as knees, shins and feet are also important for function and may directly or indirectly aid in the fit and function of the prosthesis. How well you will do depends on the skills of the prosthetist as well as your general condition. Your age, level of amputation and overall health are key factors in the final outcome. Be careful not to expect more from the prosthetic rehabilitation process than can be realistically accomplished.
A prosthetists skills, like other artistic and creative occupations, vary widely. I consider prosthetics an art and it should go without saying, the skills of the prosthetist have a direct effect on your outcome. I would suggest that you find a prosthetist that can actually fabricate a prosthetic device as opposed to one who relies on technicians or central fabrication laboratories for the actual construction. I can’t state strongly enough that if the prosthetist is not involved in the hands on fabrication of your prosthesis, go elsewhere. Fewer and fewer prosthetists have these hands on skills.
How do I find a good prosthetist or prosthetic facility?
- Ask other amputees
- Check the phone book for locations
- Visit several facilities
- Schedule an appointment and talk to the staff
- Ask to see their fitting rooms and laboratory
- Do they participate with your insurance
- Understand in advance what your prosthesis will cost
- Do they make the prosthesis on site or rely on a central fabrication lab
- What are their regular business hours
- In an emergency will there be a prosthetist that can help me
- Convenient location and travel considerations
- What guarantee of satisfaction do they offer
What should I avoid:
- Being steered, directed or told by your doctor or therapist you have to or should obtain your prosthesis from a provider of their choice
- Prosthetists that meet you at another office or at your home
- Prosthetists that offer to forgive (don’t collect) your co-pay, under most circumstances this is illegal
- Prosthetists that bill your insurance before the work is done
- Billing your insurance company for items or components you didn’t receive
- Prosthetists that don’t or can’t fabricate your prosthesis
- Prosthetists that you feel don’t answer your questions or make you feel part of the process _____________________________________________________________
“When you undergo amputation, you are profoundly challenged on every plane of your being: physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. The indisputable fact is that your limb is permanently gone. How you respond to that reality will determine whether or not you give in to despair, or use your experience as a springboard to deepen your experience of the richness of being human. Undergoing amputation can prompt you to reorder your priorities, open your heart to greater depths on compassion and love and inspire greater awareness in your life.”