Frequently Asked Questions

Prosthetic Questions

What is a Prosthesis?

By definition is a prosthesis is a definitive artificial limb that is alignable or articulated or, in lower extremity applications, capable of bearing weight. Prosthesis means an artificial medical device that is not surgically implanted and that is used to replace a missing limb, appendage, or other external human body part and that includes an artificial limb, hand, or foot. The term does not include artificial eyes, ears, dental appliances, ostomy products, devices such as artificial breasts or eyelashes, wigs, or other devices as determined by the board that do not have a significant impact on the musculoskeletal functions of the body.

At AALOS, after 54 years of Redefining the Possible, we have learned that it is that and much more. For those who have placed their trust and faith in AALOS to regain their lives and independence, we find that a prosthesis is “PRIDE”, “LIFE BLOOD”, “FAMILY”, “FRIENDS”, ”LOVE”, ”HOPE”, “SECURITY”, “FUN”, “PERSONAL FREEDOM”, “INDEPENDENCE”, “EMPOWERMENT”, Etc. For without prosthesis and the dedicated, caring professionals at AALOS, these and many other things that are taken for granted would be severely limited following a life changing event such as an amputation.

*At AALOS, we realize and are reminded everyday by those whose lives we are privileged to be a part of that a prosthesis is more than just an assistive device and make it our goal to return these elements to our patients lives.

What is the most common reason for amputation?
Vascular disease and poor circulation accounts for approximately 85% of the Lower Limb amputations in the AALOS coverage area.
How soon after my amputation will I get my prosthesis?
It depends on how quickly you heal following the amputation. True prosthetic management typically begins around the time stitches or sutures are removed. At that point, there is usually about one week devoted to residual limb or stump shaping and then the measurement for the prosthesis can begin. It may take about 2 weeks from that time for initial delivery of your prosthesis.
Will my prosthesis look like my natural leg?
It is a personal choice if you want it to look like your natural leg or if you want a more creative design. Many prosthetic wearers like to personalize the prosthesis with unique graphics. If it is your first experience wearing a prosthesis after an amputation, a cosmetic cover is not recommended because of the frequent adjustments during the PT rehab phase.
Is it normal for me to still feel my missing limb, foot and toes or hand and fingers?
Yes, in nearly every patient, the patient still feels the missing body part after an amputation. These sensations are referred to as phantom sensations. They often will subside over time, but in many cases never completely go away.
Will the prosthesis be heavy?
Prostheses manufactured today utilize the lightest weight and most advanced materials available. Carbon fiber construction of the socket the residual limb fits into is thin and strong. The rest of the prosthesis is fabricated from aluminum, titanium, and/or carbon composite which are also lightweight and strong. However, the prosthesis will be attached or suspended on the outside of the body and can feel heavy. In comparison to the amputated body part, the prosthesis is much lighter but its actual weight is more noticeable to the wearer.
Will the ankle on my prosthesis move?
Prosthetic feet have numerous ankle configurations and some actually have built in axis which allow for motion that accommodates uneven ground. Other prosthetic feet are made of materials that simulate ankle motion during ambulation/walking. All of the ankles in this category move during ambulation and conform to the surface the wearer is on at the time. However, they do not move independently. The ankles respond to ground reaction forces.
Will I have different prosthesis for different activities?
The answer to that question depends on your prosthetic benefit in your insurance plan. Under most typical insurance plans, there is only one prosthesis allowed based on medical necessity.

Fitting & Fabrication Questions

How many visits will be required for the measurement and fitting of my prosthesis?
For the new amputee, the general answer is 4 visits.
  1. Measurement and fitting for a stump shrinker
  2. Measurement and evaluation for the prosthesis
  3. 1-2 test fittings prior to building the prosthesis
  4. Delivery of the prosthesis
At AALOS, we also follow up with each patient through the Physical Therapy Gait Training phase to make necessary adjustments as soon as possible and maximize prosthetic function in the shortest amount of time.
When will physical therapy begin after my amputation?
Pre-prosthetic physical therapy will begin immediately following the amputation. The goal is to limit flexion contractures in the knee and hip joints and to retain muscle strength and function prior to the prosthetic measurement and fitting.
What are my options for various heel heights on my prosthetic foot?
Unfortunately, the luxury of variable heel heights is limited. There are feet that allow the prosthetic wearer to adjust the foot to various heel heights. However, those particular feet are sometimes limited to a foot that does not utilize lightest weight carbon composite, dynamic response heel and toe levers. At AALOS, we work with each patient on an individual basis to determine which foot would be the best choice for the broadest range of activities and make the decision on the most practical foot. We will also evaluate each patient’s shoes to help make the best decision.

Orthotic Questions

What is an Orthotist?

The definition of an Orthotist is person licensed to practice orthotics which is the science and practice of evaluating, measuring, designing, fabricating, assembling, fitting, adjusting, or servicing, as well as providing the initial training necessary to accomplish the fitting of, an orthosis for the support, correction, or alleviation of neuromuscular or musculoskeletal dysfunction, disease, injury, or deformity. The practice of orthotics encompasses evaluations and consultation and continuing care, with basic observational gait and posture analysis. Orthotists assess the need for and measure, design, manufacture, and fit orthoses to maximize function and provide not only the support but the alignment necessary to either prevent or correct deformity or to improve the safety and efficiency of mobility or locomotion, or both. Orthotic practice includes periodic evaluation and consultation to assess its effect on the patient’s tissue and assure proper fit and function of the orthotic device

An Orthotist is only as good as the people who surround him or her that share the goals and belief in restoring the lives of a person who has had an amputation as well as their families, friends and loved ones. An Orthotist does not enter this profession without possessing ingredients such as EMPATHY, CARE, A DESIRE TO HELP AND MAKE A DIFFERENCE, etc.

It also goes for those who work in support of the Orthotist such as the Lab Technicians who spend countless hours creating and fabricating an orthosis. The Orthotic Assistant, whose role it is to support the Orthotist in reaching the goals established by the patient and Orthotist and rehabilitation team. The Administrative Staff including the Receptionist, office manager, coding and billing specialists, etc.

*At Alabama Artificial Limb & Orthopedic Service, we agree with the definition of an Orthotist. But, we also realize that without the other staff/team members, an Orthotist will not be able to fulfill the philosophy of AALOS to restore a quality of life to our patients and their families, friends, loved ones and care givers.

Will my brace/orthosis fit under my clothes?
Whether it is a leg brace or back brace, the answer to this question depends on exactly what the brace is treating. The simple answer is that if a person is putting a brace on their body and if the wearer wants it under clothes, a larger size in outer wear is likely necessary. Braces are typically not worn over clothes. However, it is recommended that a thin t-shirt or sock is worn against the skin as an interface between the body and the brace.
How long will I wear the brace/orthotic each day?
Depending on the severity of your injury or specific diagnosis, wearing schedules can vary. In most cases, our schedule will be specified by your physician. At the very least, you will wear it when you are up and moving around and during periods of activity. Braces/orthotics are designed to support, realign and/or immobilize an area of the body. So, wearing the brace during activity or when the wearer is up will increase its effectiveness.
My daughter has idiopathic scoliosis. What is the wearing schedule for her orthosis?
99% of the time, Idiopathic Scoliosis is diagnosed in the female population. Typically, it can be diagnosed as early as 11 years old and will be past the most critical phase after 15 years of age. This determination will dictate the overall length of time the brace will be needed. There are 2 types of scoliosis braces. One is to be worn for the majority of the day and the other is for night time wear only. In either case, the effectiveness of the orthosis depends on a diligent effort to wear the brace as long as recommended.
What does a scoliosis brace look like?
The appearance of a scoliosis brace depends on the style of brace ordered. However, all of them are fairly low profile and not extremely bulky. This makes them inconspicuous. Scoliosis braces are worn by children and early teens. There are also a variety of transfer designs such as various colors or themes that can make the brace a personal expression of style as well.
Will my short leg brace/ankle foot orthosis (AFO) fit in my shoe?
This is the most common question when braces for the lower limb are prescribed. The wearer often will want to wear a variety of shoes or at least, the shoes they currently own. The simple answer is yes. However, lace-up shoes are almost always recommended for ease in donning the shoe over the brace. Depending on the diagnosis and swelling, lace-up shoes can be recommended. Shoes with high heel elevation are also less desirable. *At AALOS we will go over the variety of options for shoe wear with an orthosis. We understand the desire to limit expenses by using existing shoes as well as the desire to be less conspicuous.
Will my brace/orthosis be hot?
As with anything that covers the skin in warm and humid climates, bracing that covers parts of the body limits the flow of air and can cause the body to sweat. At AALOS, we strongly recommend the use of a fitted interface such as a cotton t-shirt or a cotton sock. It can reduce the discomfort or irritation that results from sweating inside an orthosis.

Mastectomy Questions

Will I be able to wear fashionable undergarments with my breast form?
Yes. Because of the demand for fashionable undergarments such as bras, manufacturers are producing a variety of styles, colors and selections. Swim wear and lingerie are also available in various styles and colors.
When do I contact the “Boutique” to make my care plan and selection for post-mastectomy products?
You can call as early after your diagnosis and decision to have a mastectomy as you wish. There are post-mastectomy camisoles available that are easy to step into and have convenient pockets for drains.
What is available to me under my insurance plan?

All insurance plans are unique. The administrative staff at AALOS will help you understand what is available in your post-mastectomy benefit.

*At the “Boutique” at AALOS, we have a variety of styles and manufacturers in-house to choose from and compare in a quiet, personal setting.