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Edema of the Residual Limb

By James Baird, CPO, Director of Education, Hanger Clinic

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Patient Education

After amputation, the residual limb tends to swell when the liner is not worn, as occurs during sleep. Consequently, patients may have difficulty putting the prosthesis on after they wake up. Wearing a shrinker (an elastic sock used to control edema) or an elastic bandage while sleeping can help prevent swelling overnight. The shrinker or bandage is removed before the prosthesis is put on.

In hot and humid weather, the residual limb may swell and sweat, making the prosthesis hard to put on. Showering immediately before putting the prosthesis on may help. For the last 2 min of the shower, patients should hold the residual limb under cold water, and immediately after drying off, they should put the prosthesis on. After the prosthesis has been on for 5 to 10 min, they should quickly take it off and then put it on again. This strategy helps get the residual limb as far into the socket as possible. If a cold shower is not readily available, patients can wrap the residual limb in an elastic bandage for 5 to 10 min, then try to put the prosthesis on.