An infection can be a serious complication that occurs in a large number of prosthetic users. It is reported that approximately 20-41% of prosthesis wearers will develop an infection on their residual limb. Because of this, proper preventative measures are essential in preventing both wounds and infections from occurring in your residual limb.
Preventing Injuries on Your Residual Limb
After an amputation, a residual limb is especially vulnerable to ulcerations and wounds. The site will remain particularly susceptible to infections as it continues to heal. Not only should you check to ensure that your prosthesis is fitted properly, there are also a number of other things you can do to help safeguard it from injury.
You should check the site regularly and clean and change the dressings frequently (as advised by your healthcare provider). By following these steps, you can help ensure that your residual limb is protected from potential wounds.
- Cleanse your residual limb daily, using a pH-balanced soap, then gently pat it dry. Avoid using harsh detergents or rubbing it briskly, as that can increase your risk of injury.
- Apply lotion to the residual limb after cleaning it. Do not use any lotions that contain harsh fragrances or alcohol, as that can increase the site drying out and becoming cracked.
- Conversely, do not apply an excessive amount of lotion to the site, as this can also increase the risk of infection. Allow the lotion to dry down completely before attaching your prosthetic limb.
- Keep anything that comes into contact with your residual limb (such as socks and liners) clean. Wash them regularly, and avoid any detergents that contain strong perfumes.
- Maintain a healthy diet. Enjoy a variety of fruits and vegetables and drink plenty of water each day (unless advised otherwise by your healthcare provider). If you have diabetes, you should be careful to monitor your blood glucose levels regularly.
- Avoid all tobacco products (including smokeless tobacco products, such as chewing tobacco and vape products), as they can prevent wound healing and increase your risk of developing an infection.
Common Signs of an Infection in a Residual Limb
In addition to being mindful of both your overall health and the wellbeing of your residual limb, you should also check the site often for any signs of pressure wounds (ulcers) or infection. If you do not follow the recommended protocols to protect your residual limb, you may unfortunately dramatically increase your risk of serious infection at the site.
It’s important to be aware of the signs of an infection on your residual limb. By taking good care of your residual limb, you can help ensure the long term prognosis for both your prosthesis and your limb. If you identify any of these indicators of an infection, it’s critical that you reach out to your healthcare provider immediately.
- The residual limb is red in appearance
- Red streaks are running up your leg
- The site feels hot to the touch
- Your residual limb has swelling or bulging
- The site has new bleeding or is leaking new fluids
- Skin is peeling away from the site
If you observe any of the following issues, it could be a sign of a serious medical emergency. Do not delay reaching out to your healthcare provider if you encounter any of these signs of an infection.
- You are running a fever (101.5°F)
- You have swelling in your armpits or groin
- You have foul discharge (pus) from the site
- Your pain is getting worse
- Your pain is not responding to pain medication
- The site has brown, black, or gray discharge
- The site has turned black or purple
- You notice any signs of gangrene
An Ounce of Prevention
It’s important to remember that the best way to avoid developing an infection at the site of your residual limb is to prevent a wound from occurring in the first place. We here at Prosthetic Orthotic Solutions International can help guide you through the process of proper fitting and care of your new prosthesis. If you have any questions about how to not only prevent, but also to protect yourself from injuries and wounds on your residual limb, please either call or contact your nearest POSI center today.
Karyl Trejo is a medical content writer with a
degree in Psychology–who also works as a licensed optician. When Karyl isn’t
drafting medical research articles on topics such as wound care,
health and wellness, and diet, she can be found working on her science-fiction
 Residual Limb Complications and Management Strategies https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s40141-014-0063-0
 How to Change a Wound Dressing – Vohra https://vohrawoundcare.com/how-to-change-a-wound-dressing/
 Leg amputation – discharge: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia https://medlineplus.gov/ency/patientinstructions/000014.htm