Thursday, December 30, 2010

New Year!

As 2010 closes out, most of us find ourselves making resolutions for the New Year. Whether you want to change jobs, lose weight, quit smoking or find a mate, the changing of the calendar is an opportune time for self-improvement and for reflection.

Last year approximately 45% of women and 32% of men resolved to lose weight and increase their physical fitness. Of those, studies show that 80% had failed and abandoned their resolution by Valentine's Day. The best chance to lose weight and to keep the pounds off is when a strong support system is in place. OPC has resolved to help amputees in the Maryland and Northern Virginia area keep their weight loss resolutions!

Did you know that prosthetic components are classified according to activity level and weight limitations? Prosthetic choices are drastically impacted by the weight of the patient. Those with a higher weight are afforded fewer options and are not eligible for bionic devices.

Consider this: currently there are approximately 150 versions of feet on the market. Weighing more than 220 pounds eliminates 50% of the feet, leaving the amputee with 75 options. For the amputee weighing more than 275 pounds, the individual is left with only 36 feet from which to choose. When the amputee weighs over 300 pounds, their prosthetic choices have been limited to approximately 10 custom made, high impact feet.

If limited prosthetic choice is not enough motivation to shed the pounds, consider the strain that is being placed upon the residual limb. Socket fit and comfort are compromised by obesity. Sores and bone spurs are common occurrences for the overweight amputee.

OPC is committed to fostering healthy lifestyles for our patients. In the coming weeks we will be launching a program to help amputees in the area become more physically active and to achieve a healthy weight. In future blogs we will be exploring additional limitations and obstacles that the overweight amputee faces.

We are excited about our ground breaking program so stay tuned for more information! Together, we can all be healthier in 2011.

We hope that everybody has a happy and safe New Years celebration.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

ProDigits Solution

OPC would like to congratulate Touch Bionics for being awarded the 2010 Best of What's New Award from Popular Science magazine for their ProDigits solution. The award is bestowed on 100 products that have made the greatest impact in their designated category.

ProDigits is a remarkable prosthetic device for amputees with finger amputation(s). The prosthetic fingers are powered and controlled individually which enables the amputee to isolate finger motions. With training, patients have regained the ability to complete many of the tasks which before seemed nearly impossible, including typing and playing the piano. The individually powered and fully articulated digits reflect the movements and motions of the human hand that were not thought possible before this technology.

The ProDigits are the first to provide myoelectric control features. Myoelectric control utilizes advanced software to interpret the electrical signals released from the remaining limb. The software has a "learning" feature," enabling the output to evolve and to become personalized for each user.

Miniscule electrodes are fitted within the socket in strategic locations. As the individual attempts to move the amputated finger, the electrode detects the signal emmited by the limb. The software interprets the signal and moves the prostheses accordingly. The control of the prosthesis becomes natural for the amputee.

Because each ProDigit contains its own control and power supplies, the clinicians are able to make refined adjustments to receive optimum results using Bluetooth technology. The patient has a limited ability to make changes it grasp strength etc.. ProDigits is is a powered device and must be charged regularly.

The inclusion of myoelectric technology, which has never before been available in this form, makes the ProDigits Solution truly revolutionary. Individuals may benefit from this prosthetic innovation regardless of the number of fingers that have been amputated. Although each case should be evaluated individually, it is recommended that the finger amputation be at the transmetacarpal (just below the knuckle) level.

If you are an upper extremity amputee, this device might help restore more function to your everyday activities. The clinicians at OPC have experience fitting devices from Touch Bionics which have yielded amazing results. If you have questions about ProDigits Solution and feel that you might benefit, give us a call.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

How to Find a Prosthetist

In many ways, the relationship that the amputee develops with his or her prosthetist is more important than the one which was developed with the surgeon. Once the limb has been stabilized and is healthy, the surgeon plays a minimal role in the amputee's life. The prosthetist often becomes the first line of defense against residual limb issues, and the surgeon contacted only when all other remedies have been tried and have been deemed unsuccessful.

Choosing a prosthetist can feel daunting. It is often helpful to begin your search by asking several amputees in your area who they use. Be sure to ask if they are pleased with the care they are receiving; it is surprising how many amputees are not satisfied with their prosthetic care.

Utilize the initial consultation to ask questions and to learn about the philosophy of the practice. Remember that you are the client and that you are conducting the interview. It may be helpful to have your questions written down before the consultation. The following questions might help guide your interview.

1. Where are the prosthetics manufactured and maintained? Does the practice have the ability to create the devices in-house or are they prepared by a third party?

At OPC the prosthetics are manufactured on site. "In house" production reduces the time an amputee must wait to receive the prosthesis. We understand the importance of a prosthesis to the amputee and strive to provide a quick turn around time from casting to device delivery.

2. What does the practitioner envision his or her role to be in your rehabilitation?

We believe that an open line of communication between the practitioner and the amputee is paramount. When asked about his role, Elliot explained that he believes, "The prosthetist helps to navigate and to serve as a resource. It is important that a prosthetist is willing to offer choices. My first job is to listen."

3. Does the practitioner have experience with bionic devices and the latest technology? Ask about current certifications and devices that have been fit on other patients.

Not all prosthetists have received training on computerized limb components. New products are being introduced into the prosthetic market yearly. The practitioners at OPC strive to stay abreast of the latest innovations.

We believe that it should be left to the amputee to judge whether or not a component works for them. After all, the amputee is the person wearing the device. We provide the patient with options and our professional opinion, but ultimately the choice is yours.

4. What is the typical wait time to be scheduled for adjustments or to trouble shoot prosthetic issues?

We realize that there is little more than can ruin an amputee's day than an ill-fitting, uncomfortable socket. We are often able to see patients within 24 hours to address issues or to provide adjustments. Because our devices are manufactured on site, we are often able to remedy the issues during a single visit.

Choosing a prosthetist is a decision that should be carefully weighed. We are proud to be a practice which offers compassionate, knowledgeable, innovative care while being equipped to manufacture and repair on site. Remember that the prosthetist should be part of the team, but the amputee should always be the leader.

If you are interested in meeting with one of our practitioners, please give us a call (703) 698 5007 or drop us an email ( We will offer Skype consultations, at no charge, beginning in January. Let's talk about how we can help you achieve your goals. We would love to be a part of your team!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Deka Arm

Historically speaking, advances in the field of prosthetics occur primarily during times of war and conflict. This phenomenon is easy to explain--funding for prosthetic research is increased as the surge of wounded military men and women increases. The number of military personnel that sustain amputations can be correlated directly to the amount of funding delegated for research.

In 2007 the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) awarded two substantial grants to fund what has been dubbed as "revolutionary prosthetics." The goal of the grants is to develop, create and implement "naturally functioning" upper extremity prosthetics. Although the focus of the program is on designing hands and arms, there is little doubt that a trickle down will occur and that all amputees may eventually benefit from the advancements.

The results of the nearly $150 million investment are starting to be yielded. Phase one of the project, the DEKA arm, is currently being fitted on select military personnel and is readying for market release in the future. From fully articulated fingers to replicating various degrees motion, this is an exciting advancement!

From socket design to form and function, the DEKA arm has re-energized research in the field of prosthetics. "The ultimate goal of this research program has been to provide a prosthesis that mimics the natural hand and arm." With phase one nearing completion, attention is being turned towards the neurological component.

In order to develop an arm that mimics natural movements and responds instinctively, an interface with the brain is necessary. Researchers at Johns Hopkins have been working on developing a communication system between the patient and the prosthesis.

A small electrode, approximately 3 mm in size, has been developed for implantation on top of the brain. Once in place, the electrode can communicate the brain's commands directly to the prosthesis. The neuro-electrode has been implanted in primates with astounding results! The primates are able to control their prosthesis in real-time with natural movements, even demonstrating the ability to press deliberately press keys on a keyboard using prosthetic finger isolation.

This is a remarkable time in the field of prosthetics. Advances are being made in directions that a decade ago were only explored in Science Fiction (Luke Skywalker from Star Wars). The practitioners at OPC are on top of the technology available not only today but also in the future.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Ready for Cold Weather?

Every season creates unique issues for the amputee. In the winter there is often a struggle to keep the residual limb warm. Although the limb may feel cold within the prosthesis, most amputees complain of the frigid sensation at night. A cold residual limb can range from being uncomfortable to painful. Many amputees report an increase both in the frequency and the intensity of phantom limb pain when their limb is cold.

Investing in a few items can make the frigid temperatures more comfortable for the amputee. After the prosthesis and liner are removed, it is helpful to slip a soft tube sock over the residual limb. Keeping the limb covered in a breathable fabric will help to maintain heat.

If the tube sock is too small or constricting, you might want to try using a child's ski mask hat. The fabric can be stretched over the limb and the makeshift cover will typically stay in place while sleeping.

Although wrapping a heating pad around the limb can make the you feel more comfortable, it is not always practical. It is not advised to utilize a heating pad for more than 20 minutes at a time. Keeping the limb warm throughout the night using a heating pad not only becomes cumbersome because of the cords, but dangerous.

On occasion the sock alone doesn't provide enough warmth. If your limb continues to feel cold despite being covered, you might want to try using disposable hand warmers to provide extra heat. Once activated, the hand warmers generate heat for up to eight hours. Now when the limb is extremely cold, try pulling on a tube sock, hold a warmer on the tip of your covered limb and then slip another sock on top to hold it in place.

A WORD OF CAUTION: it is imperative that the hand warmer never be placed directly on the skin. Because the residual limb has nerve damage and compromised circulation (a natural result of the amputation) the skin may not react normally to burning heat. When using heat or cold therapy, always utilize a barrier.

If you are not bottoming out in your prosthesis, you might benefit from placing a hand warmer in the bottom of your socket in the morning. The warmers need oxygen in order to generate heat, so some space is necessary for them to work. Many amputees have a sufficient void in the bottom of their prosthesis for the hand warmers to work, creating a warmed prosthesis during the frigid temperatures.

Keeping the limb from becoming chilled during the winter is a common struggle for amputees. Hopefully some of these ideas will help to make you more comfortable whether you are playing in the snow or watching it fall from inside your home. Do you have any other cold weather tips?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Gift Ideas

Shopping, especially for holiday gifts, can be an exercise in frustration. Frequently we are asked to provide gift suggestions for an amputee. We have compiled a list of functional and fun gifts for an amputee friend or family member. Although many of these items are available at a variety of retail stores, we have included links to purely out of convenience.

Fuzzy and warm socks are often a welcome gift. Many amputees complain that the residual limb becomes cold on winter nights so sleeping with a cozy and soft sock over the limb can make the individual more comfortable.

The residual limb often benefits from a deep massage, especially when the muscles are sore. This Homedics Massaging Pillow provides a comforting massage that can be personalized according to an individual's preferences. Many amputees have reported that their use of this massage pillow has lessened the frequency and intensity of phantom sensations.

Many lower extremity amputees who rely upon a prosthetic frequently struggle to put shoes onto their prosthesis. A shoe horn is a simple stocking stuffer than can alleviate their shoe donning frustrations.

Walking in snow and ice is difficult for those with both limbs. When the individual is an amputee, it can become a terrifying feat. These removable cleats easily slip onto a variety of shoes, increasing traction and safety while walking on slippery surfaces.

For the amputee gamer on your list, you might want to consider the Wii Active Personal Trainer system. This program can be easily adapted to accommodate for limitations due to limb loss. It is also a great way to learn how to put equal weight through the prosthesis, decreasing the chances of developing osteoporosis!

Traveling presents unique obstacles for the amputee. This portable grab-bar is simple to apply and can make any shower accessible. It is compact and fits into the corner of a suitcase. If the amputee utilizes a bionic prosthesis, they may appreciate receiving a power strip to use when traveling. The amputee traveler often must rotate between charging their cell phone, computer and prosthesis due to limited electric outlets in hotel rooms.

If he or she doesn't travel far from home, they might appreciate a handicapped tag holder. This holder keeps the placard both protected and in a central location, allowing it to be easily accessible.

Slipping on a cold silicone liner can be miserable way to start the morning, especially during the winter. For a "luxurious" gift, consider a towel warmer. The liner can be placed into the heated box to be warmed before it is donned. There is little that feels better than slipping into a warm liner on a cold winter morning!

Although this list is by no means exhaustive, we hope that it has provided some helpful ideas to make shopping a little easier. Do you have additional gift suggestions? We would love to hear from you.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Are you an Avid Skier?

The unmistakable chill in the air can only mean one thing: winter is upon us. For some people, winter is dreaded as a season of long, dark nights and indoor activities. For others, the plunging mercury and the first falling snow flakes signal the return of a favorite activity- skiing.

If you are an experienced skier, there is an opportunity that don't want to miss. Jackson Hole Ski Resort, in association with Teton Adaptive Sports and OPC, is pleased to announce the third annual Adaptive Steep & Deep Camp. This camp is open to all amputee skiers, regardless of the level of amputation, who have adaptive ski experience. It is important to consider that this is not a program for the novice amputee skier.

This four day program, scheduled from March 2-5 2011, is a unique opportunity for the intermediate and advanced skier to hone their skills under the instruction of Olympic and Para-Olympic skiers. If you are an advanced skier who is looking to gain big mountain experience, this program might be for you. Unlike other adapted sports programs, the Steep and Deep Camp is fully inclusive. Skiers are grouped by their skiing abilities, not by the level of disability that may be present.

Participants from previous years have raved about the program with many making plans to return this year. A participant from last year said this about the camp, “As an amputee, I usually ski with other adaptive skiers. I really enjoyed the opportunity to be grouped with other skiers based on my abilities and not by the equipment I use to move down the hill. The instructors with the camp were truly top-notch. I cannot wait to come back to the Steeps and Deeps of Jackson Hole next year.”

The Steep & Deep camp registration fee covers lodging for five nights at the Teton Mountain Lodge, all coaching, lunches and a banquet dinner, lifts fees, after ski activities. The registration fees have been subsidized and limited scholarships are available!

The camp has been heralded as the experience of a lifetime for the experienced adaptive skier. If you're itching for snow so that you can hit the slopes, and you feel comfortable with your ski abilities, you don't want to pass up this opportunity. Spaces are limited so don't delay and register soon. We hope to see you in Wyoming!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Your Chance to Shine

Our patients remain the motivating force driving us at OPC. We recognize that each individual has a unique set of circumstances that led them to our practice. Our patients set and accomplish goals, and we are honored that we able to be part of their journey.

We are inspired by our patients every day, and we want to use this blog as a vehicle to share their stories. An accomplishment does not have to be an Olympic feat in order to be awe-inspiring for others. Returning to work after an amputation, learning to ride a bicycle or participating in a charity walk can be monumental achievements after a limb loss.

Please allow us to celebrate and share your accomplishments. We want to inspire others by providing real life role models. If you are interested in sharing your story, please send us an email( You may wish to use the following questions to guide your response.

1. How did you lose your limb and what is your level of amputation?

2. What were you doing before your limb loss that you feared you wouldn't be able to continue now that you are an amputee?

3. What was your greatest fear about living with a limb loss, and how did you overcome it?

4. Please explain the feat or accomplishment that you achieved. Remember, no goal is too small!

This is your opportunity to inspire others who may be starting their journey, or who may need motivated. We hope to hear from you--this is your chance to share!

Friday, December 3, 2010

A Victory, but We Need More Calls

On Tuesday night, November 30, 2010, the U.S. House of
Representatives passed the Injured and Amputee Veterans Bill of
Rights (H.R. 5428) as part of a larger bill, H.R. 5953, the Women
Veterans Bill of Rights. Congressman Filner, Chairman of the House VA
Committee, led the charge in placing this bill on the "suspension
calendar," leading to a favorable vote in the House.

The bill now goes to the U.S. Senate for consideration in the closing
days of the 111th Congress. The hope is that the Senate will consider
this bill under "unanimous consent" procedures, where, if no one
objects, it automatically passes the Senate. However, there are many
barriers that lie ahead, particularly with the contents of the Women
Veterans Bill of Rights, and it is very late in the Congressional

NAAOP is working hard to secure passage of this important legislation
and will continue to do so in the days and weeks ahead. Other O&P
organizations have been supportive at critical stages. We call on all
NAAOP members and friends in the O&P community to contact their
Senate offices and encourage passage in the Senate of the Injured and
Amputee Veterans Bill of Rights (part of H.R. 5953 - the Women
Veterans Bill of Rights).

To contact your Senate office,please dial the Capitol switchboard at
(202) 224-3121 and ask to speak with your Senator or Senate staffer
in charge of VA issues.

The Injured and Amputee Veterans Bill of Rights is designed to make
quality orthotic and prosthetic care more consistent to veterans
across the country. The bill would require the VA to post on its
website and in every VA O&P clinic a list of rights that veterans
have. These rights include access to appropriate technology, a
practitioner of the veteran's choice (both inside and outside the VA
system), a second opinion with respect to treatment decisions, access
to a functional spare orthoses or prostheses, and several other
important provisions.

We hope you will take the time to make your support for this
important legislation clear to your Senators.

Thank you for your assistance and to those who assisted with the
House victory, congratulations!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Mirror Therapy

Phantom limb pain is accepted by the medical community as a real issue despite the fact that little is known about the phenomenon. Researchers suspect that the pain is the result of both physical and neurological issues. The brain continues to try to communicate with the limb after amputation, resulting in discomfort and painful sensations for the amputee.

The rising numbers of amputees have rejuvenated interest in phantom limb pain during the past decade. In addition to traditional pharmaceutical treatments, many patients have been seeking alternative approaches. Mirror therapy is among the treatments that has shown promise for diminishing the pain felt by amputees.

Many may be surprised to learn that mirror therapy has its origins in the Civil War. In the North Officers who suffered battlefield amputations were often provided with a mirror while in their sickbed. The wounded Officer was instructed to look at the sound limb in the mirror to receive "mental relief" from the trauma.

Mirror therapy reemerged at the beginning of this century as a promising treatment for phantom limb pain. Several research studies have been conducted and, although it is not completely understood why, participants report a drastic decrease in pain and discomfort after mirror therapy. It is theorized that the brain is "tricked" into believing that a connection is being made to the missing limb. When the brain believes that a connection is made, the nerves stop misfiring resulting in diminished pain.

A survey of area pain clinics revealed that many physicians are open to utilizing mirror therapy as a treatment for phantom limb pain. Although self-guided protocols are available on the internet, experts recommend that the amputee be trained in order to yield optimum results. The use of a mirror in conjunction with visualization techniques has proved the most successful approach.

This article provides a good explanation of the treatment of phantom limb pain with mirror therapy. Have you ever tried mirror therapy? What do you think about this treatment approach?

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A Call to Action

Please take the time to read this letter and to call your Congressional representatives. It concerns prosthetic care for Veterans. Thank you!

Injured and Amputee Veterans Bill of Rights, H.R. 5428

Earlier today, NAAOP learned that Congressman Filner (D-CA), Chairman
of the House VA Committee, combined NAAOP's bill, H.R. 5428, into
another bill for which he also serves as chief sponsor, the Women
Veterans Bill of Rights (H.R. 5953). He made no amendments to the
bill language but included the entire bill as introduced. He then
placed the bill on the House "suspension calendar." This means that
if two thirds or more of the House does not object, it passes. If
this occurs, a similar procedure would be necessary in the U.S.

This afternoon, as the bill was scheduled to come to the floor and
the ranking Republican on the committee, Congressman Buyer (R-IA),
strongly objected to the process, Chairman Filner pulled the bill
from consideration and said he intends to put the bill up for a vote

We, therefore, have tonight and tomorrow morning to get as many calls
into House Republicans to urge them to vote FOR H.R. 5953 (which
contains our bill-H.R. 5428).

Contact your Congressman today or tomorrow morning by calling the
U.S. Capitol Switchboard at (202) 225-3121.

Tell your Congressman to:

o PASS H.R. 5953, the Women Veterans Bill of Rights, which includes
H.R. 5428, the Injured and Amputee Veterans Bill of Rights.

o The bill will help injured and amputee veterans get the prosthetic
and orthotic care they need to be healthy, functional, independent
and employed.

o The bill will make access to high quality prosthetic and orthotic
care more consistent throughout the country.

o The bill does not cost a dime and simply informs veterans of their
rights so they can be empowered to get the care they need.

o The bill is widely supported by Veteran Service Organizations as
well as over 35 national disability organizations.

o VOTE FOR H.R. 5953, which contains the Injured and Amputee Veterans
Bill of Rights.

Thank you for your prompt attention to this request!

PowerFoot Launch

Throughout history there has never been a better time to be an amputee. Developments in the field of prosthetics are enabling amputees to return to active lifestyles, unhindered by their limb loss. Prosthetic limbs are increasingly providing more life-like functions, minimizing the limitations felt by the amputee.

The PowerFoot by iWalk is one of the most anticipated prosthetic advancements in recent years. This is the first prosthesis that is designed to replace muscle function. Instead of positioning the foot when it is unloaded, the PowerFoot technology works to power the amputee as he or she walks.

By replacing the forces lost by the absence of muscle tissue, the PowerFoot enables the amputee to normalize the gait pattern. With training, the amputee's weight is equally distributed through the prosthesis, conserving the sound side. Users of this technology report increased energy and confidence as well as a sense of safety compared to their standard prosthesis. Some wearers report feeling no difference in functioning between their new prosthesis and their sound side foot.

In preparation for its market debut, PowerFoot has just been officially unveiled through the iWalk website. This state of the art prosthesis is currently available for select military personnel and has been receiving rave reviews. The device will be commercially available in the coming months. If you're interested in the PowerFoot, be sure to bring it up at your next visit!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Phantom Pain

Phantom pain, or phantom sensations, is an issue that impacts many amputees. I have discovered that the best fitting socket in the world doesn't alleviate those pesky "phantom pains" which, for me at least, manifest themselves at night. There are a myriad of pharmaceutical treatments, but other amputees have found relief through alternative methods.

Although I haven't completely eliminated the phantom pains, I have greatly reduced their intensity and frequency. I also have a problem with my limb "kicking" at night, involuntarily and sometimes quite rapidly. My husband is thrilled that I have come up with a way to quiet the "cricket leg."

I have started using the HoMedics Shiatsu Massaging Pillow at night. I have found that the deep circular massage, for 15 to 20 minutes every night, treats the stump soreness and drastically decreases the phantom pain issues. For me, the deep massage makes the pain and stinging fade enough so that I can sleep. The pillow was the best $20 I've spent in a long time!

Have you found a non-pharmaceutical treatment for phantom pain? How do you deal with this pain which, as many amputees know, is anything but "phantom?"

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

What to Expect When you Fly

TSA has been all over the news lately. As you have probably already heard, the agency has modified the screening procedures. The new process directly impacts the amputee traveler. As recommended, you want to arrive to the airport early. This is not a screening process that you can expect to be through within a minute or two.

As of today, is is the procedure you should expect.

1. The amputee is ushered away from the metal detector into a "holding area."

2. The prosthetic should then be wanded to test for explosives. This is supposed to be done by a screener of the same gender.

3. The pat down. The agency has initiated new "thorough" pat down procedures. This consists of feeling inside the shirt collar and the waist of the pants. The arms and legs are also patted down.

Be aware that "thorough" is an apt description. Ladies, your entire breasts will be felt by the back of the screeners hand. All amputees should be prepared to have the buttocks and genital region physically touched during the process. All passengers have the right to a private screening if the public pat down is embarrassing.

After the pat down, the screener runs the explosive detector wand across his or her gloves for a final test. When everything is clear, the amputee is free to pass through security and fly. Unless, of course you are flying through an airport with the Cast Scope.

4. The TSA is unveiling Cast Scope technology at airports across the country. As of today, in our area the only airport affected is BWI. The Cast Scope is a low radiation x-ray machine that allows the screeners to see inside the prosthetic.

If you are traveling through an airport with access to the technology, be prepared to have four to six x-rays taken. This procedure takes time. (I personally have never been through the Cast Scope process in less than 15 minutes.) After the x-ray images are taken and examined, the amputee is cleared for travel.

TSA screening procedures are constantly evolving. We at OPC will do our best to keep you up to date with the changes. Happy traveling!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Limb and Liner Care

The residual limb endures a lot of abuse every day, especially when a prosthesis is worn. The skin is covered with a snug material which restricts the pores ability to breath. Pistoning and rubbing within the socket can cause further irritation. In order to maintain a healthy limb, it is recommended that the amputee take basic steps every day.

The liner should be thoroughly washed daily using a non-abrasive gentle soap. Avoid using harsh detergents as they may embed within the material and cause irritation to the skin. Rinse the liner well and, if possible, allow it to dry thoroughly before donning.

The skin on the residual limb should also be cleaned daily. In order to prevent ingrown and infected hairs, it is the consensus that the limb should not be shaved. Removing the liner for several hours a day, typically at night when sleeping, allows the skin to breath and rest.

Many amputees suffer from dry or cracked skin on their residual limb, especially during the winter months. Applying a lotion or cream can help to moisturize. Over moisturizing the skin before putting on the liner and prosthesis should be avoided. Heavily moisturized skin often becomes too slick to hold the devices.

Simple preventative measures can go a long way to ensure the health of the residual limb. If you have further questions about how to care for your limb, liner or prosthesis, don't hesitate to ask!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


Over many years, unequal weight distribution causes wear and tear on the body. Being cognizant of your stance and vigilant about putting full weight through the socket can help, but sometimes more awareness is necessary. It is not unusual for the "good side" to become the prosthetic side after a lifetime of extra duty takes the toll on the non-prosthetic side of the body.

In addition to arthritis and ligament issues, bone strength is also negatively impacted by limb loss. In fact, 100% of all lower extremity amputees experience reductions in bone density after two years. An astounding 80% of all amputees had at least a 28% reduction in their bone density. Just for comparison, a 28% loss brings a diagnosis of osteoporosis.

It is recommended that a routine bone density screening should be included in the yearly physical for all lower extremity amputees. Bone loss can be halted and, if caught early enough, can even be reversed. Know the risks, become educated and talk with your doctor.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

A Few Helpful Sites

The Internet offers an abundance of information for the amputee and their families. Unfortunately it is also riddled with pitfalls in the form of unsavory individuals looking to exploit and to manipulate. Although amputee support sites are plentiful, it is difficult to find a safe place to communicate freely, to receive and offer support and to exchange information without the intrusion of devotees.

If you want to reach out to others with limb loss, has become a powerful resource. You have to register and complete a questionnaire in order to receive access to the site. This process can take several hours to as long as a day or two, depending upon the workload of the administrators. The site has a variety of safeguards to protect its members from unwanted intruders.

Feel free to visit and join the OPC site on Facebook. The ACA webpage also provides links to valuable information. (And a personal plug,, is this blogger's website that offers an interactive forum, a daily blog and also has a Facebook Fan Page.) If you have found a great Internet resource, please let us know!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Meet Ben

Just as every amputee has a story, every practitioner has a tale about how they became involved in the field. Ben has been working as a prosthetist at OPC since 2007. What many of his patients don't realize is that this is actually his second stint at OPC. For two years he worked in the shop building the devices before returning to school to become certified.

Ben graduated from St. Joseph's University in Philadelphia with aspirations of training to become a physical therapist. He accepted a position at what is now Shady Grove Adventist Hospital as a PT Assistant and began working in his chosen field. Enter Elliot Weintrob, and everything changed.

Elliot introduced Ben to the world of prosthetics as they collaborated on a patient's treatment. Although he still enjoyed the physical therapy aspects of his job, Ben found himself drawn to "mechanical" tasks and challenges. Unsure what career path to choose, he left the area to move to Denver to train for his Olympic dreams.

During his two years in Denver, Ben discovered sports other than running. He came within seconds of the Olympic qualifying time for the Steeple Chase but opted to pursue other ambitions. He became an avid snowboarder and accepted a job at Comcast Cable.

When Ben returned to the area he contacted Elliot. As luck would have it, there was a technical manufacturing position available at OPC. Ben was offered and accepted the opportunity. He toiled in "the back" with Mark and Angela, manufacturing prosthetic devices and learning about the field for two years.

His career path cemented, he returned to school in 2007 to receive his prosthetic certification. He graduated from Cal State after completing the program and began look for a position. As if by fate, he ran into Elliot at a conference in San Fransisco and the two rekindled their friendship.

Ben returned to the Northern Virginia area, completed his residency at OPC and became Board Certified in 2008. He enjoys his position at OPC and the challenges posed by prosthetics. With everyday offering "variety and something different," he relishes "coming up with unique solutions for different problems. When someone wheels or crutches in and you give them something you built and they walk out, it is one of the biggest perks of the job. It's pretty special. It's why I do what I do."

Settled and happy with his career choice, Ben has no plans to leave the area. He and his girlfriend recently purchased a horse farm (sorry ladies, he is off the market) where he enjoys running, playing with his dogs and riding horses. He is working on articles for publications and is energized about the future of prosthetics. "In the future we will be seeing more functionality in every phase of life. I think that devices will be more durable and mechanical. I'm excited about how the field is evolving. I am definitely doing what I should be doing with my life. "

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Triple Amputee to Run Washington Marathon

A British paratrooper who lost both legs and an arm fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan, will defy his injuries to take part in Marine Corp Marathon in Washington next Sunday.

Lance Corporal Tom Neathway will run 26.2 miles through the streets of Washington on his prosthetic legs. The 26-year-old, along with four other troopers, will raise cash for the Parachute Regiment's own charity to help injured troops. Neathway, a member of 2 Para, was hurt when a roadside IED exploded in July 2008. The soldier has since done five tandem parachute jumps, but rates the marathon as his greatest challenge.

(sourced from

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Echelon Foot

The Proprio Foot is not the only prosthetic ankle that features plantar and dorsi flexion. The Echelon Foot, by Endolite also lifts the toe during swing phase. The foot is designed for the active amputee but is able to withstand the impact from occasional recreational activity.

The Echelon Foot utilizes a self-contained hydraulic system to move the ankle. A series of springs works to lift the toe during swing phase, affording increased safety and a more natural gait.

The self-alignment feature of the ankle allows the wearer to walk up and down ramps and inclines without adjusting their gait. The toe and heel are independent components allowing for increased stability while walking on various surfaces.

Since there is no need for a battery pack the wearer never has to worry about the ankle losing its charge or not working because of low power. The ankle can be cosmetically covered without affecting function.

Click here to learn more about the Echelon Foot by Endolite. The practitioners at OPC have had over 20 successful Echelon fittings. If you think that this ankle might be for you, talk with your prosthetist.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Hands On Approach

Having a prosthetist who happens to be a former Olympian definitely has its benefits. Elliot and the staff at OPC understand the importance that sports can play in an individual's life whether the aspiration is recreational or professional.

The staff at OPC goes above and beyond simply creating prosthetics. On any given day, barring heavy snow or rain, chances are you'll see either Ben or Elliot outside with a patient. Helping amputees learning to run or to ride a bike is nothing unusual in the parking lot at OPC.

Patient care goes beyond manufacturing devices, many times it involves hands on instruction and support. This holistic approach towards the amputee is yet another reason that OPC is unique. This video aired on CNBC and features OPC patient Patrick Gaffney receiving instruction and support from Elliot as he returns to jogging after his above knee amputation.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Proprio Foot

The purpose behind this blog is multi-faceted. First, we want to provide our patients with information about special events at OPC. Second, we have the honor of working with some extraordinary patients, so we hope to use this blog to share their stories. Finally, we will be profiling prosthetic technology and components by reviewing both the positive and negative features of the highlighted product.

The first in our series is the Proprio Foot, a microprocessor foot/ankle system for the BK amputee. In addition to picking up the toe during swing phase, the Proprio has the ability to automatically adjust itself for walking up and down ramps and inclines. Instead of walking on the toe of the prosthetic and powering up the ramp, which is often the norm for the lower extremity amputee, the Proprio wearer can walk with a flat foot on the hill with an undisturbed gait.

Benefits also can be reaped when ascending and descending stairs. Once the stairs are detected by the device, the foot will lift a predetermined number of degrees to provide more toe clearance. When the amputee is descending stairs, the Proprio adjusts to allow the full prosthetic foot to be placed on the step, increasing safety.

Changing shoes and switching between heel heights is simplified with the Proprio's heel height adjustment feature. The feature adjusts the ankle to accommodate heels of 1.5 inches with the simple push of two buttons. This user-friendly feature is one of the unique benefits of this foot system.

The foot is one of the heaviest foot/ankle systems available, weighing in at 2.75 pounds. Because it is a microprocessor system, the ankle is not appropriate for all environments and cannot be worn during high impact activities. The battery pack, typically mounted in the rear of the socket, needs to be charged nightly. The movement of the ankle limits options concerning cosmetic covers.

The Proprio Foot is just one of many prosthetic options available for the BK amputee. Ask us about its appropriateness for you and learn more about this foot at

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Who Is This Blogger?

I realized that I have been remiss in introducing myself. My name is Peggy, and I am a patient at OPC. I have been a below knee amputee for over seven years. Right now I am a full time stay-at-home Mommy with aspirations of being a writer.

I have been writing and maintaining my own blog, and website, for the last 18 months. Elliot has been following my blog and, when he decided to create blog for OPC, he asked if I would be willing to help. He provides me with content, and I write and maintain the posts.

My personal story began in Ocean City Maryland on March 11, 1998, at a conference. A vendor was pushing a computer on a cart. Unfortunately, the cart became stuck on the floor board. Brute force was applied to the cart, causing it to lurch forward. The computer monitor became dislodged and fell with edge landing directly on the top of my foot.

Pain persisted long past the prescribed healing period. I had a nerve stimulator implanted in my leg. The electrodes were put on the nerves in my ankle, and wires were burrowed up my leg to a battery pack embedded in my thigh. I had a remote control to work the device. I was quite bionic!

On July 3, 2003, after enduring more than 20 surgeries, I had my left foot amputated. This was, without doubt, the most difficult decision I have ever had to make. Upon reflection, it was the best choice I could have made.

I met with Elliot approximately eight weeks after my amputation. I remember sitting in the back room with my husband, Scott. We were both nervous because we didn't know what to expect. I could not have anticipated what happened next.

Elliot asked me to unwrap my limb so that he could examine it. Scott immediately jumped up and began to remove the compression bandages. Elliot stopped him and told me that I needed to do it myself.

I resisted, explaining that I didn't feel "comfortable" removing the bandages and looking at the my stump. Elliot was kind, but insisted that I needed to do it myself and that I should be careful about becoming dependent upon Scott. Scott sat down and I unwrapped my leg.

I was angry, but I also knew that Elliot was right. I needed to learn to deal with my own limb. I was an amputee, and I needed to face that reality. That moment was my first step towards healing.

The physical recovery was difficult, but not nearly as painful as the emotional recovery. I underestimated the emotional ramifications of an amputation and went through a spell of depression. It took a year, and more tears than I can count, to realize that I was the same person as I had been previously, but now without my foot. My foot didn't define me, just as my amputation doesn't define me now.

The care I received at OPC has been integral to my recovery. I have lost over 100 pounds and I have more energy than I did when I was in my 20's. It is comforting know that when a prosthetic problem arises, help is only a phone call away. I feel like I am more than a patient. At OPC, it feels like I am a member of a team that works collectively to provide me with a prosthetic to help me live to my potential.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Bartlett Tendon Universal Knee

Many times the best prosthetic innovations are the brainchild of a frustrated amputee. Scott Bartlett, an above knee amputee from Seattle Washington, became frustrated when trying to return to a sport that he loved. An avid bike racer, he knew that the prosthetic knees available would now allow him to transfer weight through his prosthetic into the pedal. His power output was dependent upon his sound side.

Scott wanted something better. After years of trial and error, the Bartlett Tendon Universal Knee was developed. This innovation allows the above knee amputee to put power back into the bike through the prosthetic. The Bartlett Tendon also allows the amputee to both stand on the pedals during climbs as well as during a full sprint. For the above knee cyclist, these activities were nearly impossible to perform with standard sport knees on the market.

OPC has had successful fittings with the Bartlett Tendon, and the device was demonstrated at the recent Open House. If you are an above knee amputee with a desire to return to cycling, ask about the Bartlett Tendon. It may be the perfect solution for you!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


Elliot, along with a specially selected patient, has accepted an invitation to try the new PowerFoot by IWalk. In the coming days the pair will travel to Boston to meet with company representatives and to "test walk" this exciting new technology.

The PowerFoot by IWalk is the world's only powered prosthetic foot. It is coming to market soon, but is not yet available. The PowerFoot has been compared to the Proprio Foot by Ossur, but there are some important distinctions.

Ossur's Proprio foot is a microprocessor foot. The ankle moves into plantar flexion and dorsal flexion when the foot is in swing phase. In order words, the ankle automatically picks up the toe whenever the foot is being swung forward. The ankle automatically adjusts to the correct angle when the wearer is going up and down ramps and inclines. It is important to consider that the ankle joint on the Proprio foot moves only when it is completely unloaded.

Unlike the Proprio Foot, the PowerFoot by IWalk helps to propel the wearer forward, especially up stairs and ramps. This ankle system provides the dorsal and plantar flexion in swing phase, but unlike the Proprio it can move when fully loaded. The foot provides a burst of energy to help the user maintain forward momentum and ambulate up and down stairs and inclines while minimizing fatigue.

Information on the PowerFoot is minimal because it is not yet on the market. Thankfully we know Elliot who has been given the rare opportunity to see this new technology first hand. Stay tuned for more information!

Monday, October 11, 2010


At OPC this week a young patient's life will be transformed. Prosthetic technology is expanding at a furious pace. Rest assured that the staff at OPC is on top of new developments! This week, Ben (a prosthetist at OPC) is getting ready to fit a partial finger amputee with a revolutionary new product- the X-Finger.

The X-Finger is a fully articulated prosthetic finger. These custom made devices are self-contained and allow for full flexion and extension of the fingers. In layman's terms, the finger mimics natural movement at the knuckle joints. With time the wearer learns to bend and extend the prosthetic fingers to complete a variety of tasks, including typing!

Best wishes as the new X-Fingers are fitted! Stay tuned for updates and more patient success stories.

Friday, October 8, 2010

In Case You Missed It.

In addition to serving the needs of amputees in the DC area, the staff at OPC has a global impact. Elliot has traveled around the world to offer his services to amputees in need. For those people who would never receive care or prosthetic devices without the donation of his time and resources, he is nothing short of a hero.

In August, cameras from 20/20 accompanied a special woman from Tanzania as she met with Elliot. There is a believe in Tanzania that the bones from an Albino contain mystical powers. As a result of this belief, a bounty was placed upon her limbs. She was savagely bludgeoned and lost both of her arms in the attack.

Desperate for help so that she could care for her young family, she was offered a new life through OPC. Materials and talents were donated so that she could be fitted with new prosthetic arms. She traveled across the earth to visit OPC-- and to think, many of us complain about the traffic on I-95 as we travel to our appointments!

We will be writing more about this important issue in the future. In case you missed the story from 20/20, here is the link. Have a great weekend!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Happy World Smile Day! Hope this little smiley worked for you!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Here to Help

Are you a lower extremity amputee who is interested in learning how to run? Maybe you are an above knee amputee who is eager to get back up on your bicycle? Perhaps you are an upper extremity amputee who is anxious to begin swimming again. Regardless of your sport fitness goal, the staff at OPC is here to help.

Elliot and his talented staff work tirelessly to custom design prosthetics so that their patients can achieve personal fitness goals. Whether you are a world class athlete or a stay-at-home Mom wanting to jog a 5k, OPC will work to help you achieve your dream. This dedication to helping the amputee participate in sport activities is not limited merely to manufacturing devices.

Last week an above-knee cycling clinic was held during the Open House. In the past, OPC has also been the host to successful running clinics. We are constantly striving to meet the needs of our patients, and one of our commitments is to provide opportunities to learn and participate in fitness events.

More clinics are being planned for the future, but we need your help. Have you been anxious about participating in an activity since you lost your limb? What sport clinics would you like to see hosted by OPC? The combination of encouragement, technology and education offered by the staff at OPC can help you achieve goals you never imagined possible.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Welcome to OPC News

Welcome to OPC News. This blog has been created as a platform for sharing events, information and resources to the friends and patients of Orthotic Prosthetic Center. We are also going to highlight the patient success stories that are achieved every day at the center.

In case you missed the event, OPC had its Fall Open House last Tuesday, September 28th. Eighty patients, family and friends gathered to learn about new technology, to share camaraderie and to participate in the above knee cycling clinic. Click here to view snapshots from the event!