Thursday, June 30, 2011

Swim Tips

The weather is (finally) hot, and there is little doubt that we are in the midst of summer. Scores of people are seeking refuge from the scorching heat by taking a dip in their local swimming pool. While we encourage swimming, the practitioners at OPC would like to take this opportunity to remind our readers about caring for their residual limb around pools and water.

Be certain your prosthetic is waterproof before diving into the pool. Most carbon fiber constructed devices are waterproof, but those with electronic or hydraulic components are not. It is also important to note that all suspension systems are not waterproof. If you are not sure if your prosthetic is waterproof, feel free to call our office. We will be happy to let you know if you are "safe to swim" or if you need to remove your prosthetic before jumping in!

When packing your pool bag, we recommending including an extra liner. According to Elliot, "Keeping the residual limb in a wet, enclosed environment for any length of time is a recipe for disaster." After you finish swimming, remove the wet liner and allow it to dry. Thoroughly towel your limb and, if possible, allow it to remain uncovered for a few minutes. (To avoid a debilitating and potentially dangerous sunburn, it is imperative that the residual limb be protected from the direct rays of the sun.) Slip into the dry liner before donning your prosthesis.

If the residual limb is not removed from the wet liner and allowed to dry, the amputee risks developing chapped spots. The skin initially feels tight and appears red and dry. Left untreated, it may crack (risking infection) and become painful. Removing the limb from the damp environment as quickly as the activity concludes will help to minimize the risk of skin breakdown.

Should breakdown occur, we recommend increasing the use of moisturizers and keeping prosthetic wear to a minimum until the skin heals. We often recommend incorporating antibiotic ointment into the regular moisturizer to decrease the likelihood of an infection developing. Allowing the residual limb to "breathe" and rest is often the best, and quickest, remedy for chapped skin.

We would like to wish all of our patients a happy and safe Fourth of July holiday!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Join Us.

Last Wednesday we hosted another AmpuTEA party. I'm sure that the attendees will agree that laughter, support and advice were freely exchanged. The next party has already been scheduled for July 20th at 3:00 at the OPC office in Fairfax.

The AmpuTEA is not a support group. Rather, it is a group of supportive women. Living with limb loss poses issues and situations that can often be remedied through the collaborative sharing of ideas and experiences. If you would like to meet with other amputees, we encourage you to attend. As always, cookies and tea are provided.

At OPC we strive to meet the needs of our patient population. The AmpuTEA party was created as a vehicle to provide an opportunity for patients to network and to learn from each other. We are also active on Facebook and Twitter. We invite you to join the conversation and meet other members of the OPC patient family.

We are in the process of planning a variety of informational seminars and experiences. In the past we have hosted a running clinic and a bicycling seminar. If you would like to see an activity or sport profiled, please let us know. We want to provide information about topics that interest you!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Weight Loss Lessons

Bob, a patient at OPC, was crowned the OPC Biggest Loser last week. His journey has not been easy, but through his hard work and determination he lost an astounding 20% body weight. Inspired by his success, we asked him to share some of the lessons he learned during his weight loss journey.

Bob is a left below knee amputee. He is an avid racquetball player and was beginning to experience pain with his right knee. His doctor advised him to lose weight to reduce the stress on his knee.

"Making the decision to really do something about my weight was tough. I don’t like starting something that I don’t intend to finish. But after the decision was made, the first 3-4 days were the hardest. I was on a very restrictive caloric intake of 1000 calories or less a day."

Bob fought against food obstacles presented through the course of his day in order to be successful. Devising a plan, and having a supportive family helped him achieve his goal.

"The biggest obstacles for me were wanting to eat my normal meals with my family at night and work colleagues during the day. For the time I was really dieting I would either avoid these meals or make sure there was a salad available. In addition, my wife was very supportive and would prepare meals that were very tasty and yet very low in calories. "

As any experienced dieter will attest, maintaining motivation during a diet or weight loss endeavor is the true battle.

"I bought a good digital scale that measured to .2 lbs. and weighed myself first thing every morning. I found that I was losing weight virtually every day. This is a big motivator."

When asked about the key to weight loss success, Bob was succinct.

"Just stick to your plan and don’t cheat. You’ll meet your goal that much faster. Don’t wait and don’t let injuries stop you. Diet is the key. Exercise is a bonus."

Join us in congratulating Bob on his weight loss success! Our second chance competition is in full swing and we look forward to profiling more patient successes in the future!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011


Our Facebook page has picked up quite a few new members during the past two weeks. We are thrilled that our page has become a place for our patients to network and to share ideas. Because many of the new members are not patients at OPC, we want to take this opportunity to introduce our practice.

We have been providing premium prosthetic and orthotic care in the DC, MD and VA areas for over 15 years. OPC is a family run business that still takes pride in our devices that are handcrafted in our own facility. The ability to manufacture in-house allows us to provide a quick turn around for our patients. In most cases we can cast, design, create and fit the prosthetics for our patient within one business week. Our efficiency, along with our reputation for providing quality devices, makes us a premiere destination prosthetic facility.

Our creative practitioners relish developing comfortable and functional prosthetics for patients who have been told that there was "nothing else that could be done." If you are unhappy with the prosthetic care that you have been receiving, or if you believe your are "settling," give us a call. We offer complimentary Skype consultations with our practitioners.

Thank you for joining our Facebook page, and we hope that you find the information that is offered valuable. If you live in the DC area, you may wish to attend our much talked about ampuTEA party. The next party is scheduled for tomorrow, June 22. Meet us at the OPC office in Fairfax at 3:00 to join the fun. Remember, the ampuTEA isn't a support group, just a group of supportive women! As always, cookies will be provided.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

New Year, New You, New Foot (or Hand) Winner!

Our New Year, New Year, New Foot (or hand) contest has officially ended. We have been overwhelmed by the efforts of our patients who participated, and everybody should be applauded for their efforts. To date, OPC patients have lost a whopping 150 pounds!

Congratulations to our winner, Bob. He shed an impressive 20% of his body weight, losing nearly 50 pounds since January. Stay tuned to a future blog where Bob will share some of his motivational insights and weight loss tips!

In an effort to encourage our patients who are continuing on their weight loss journey, we have decided to provide a "second chance" prize. A $50 gift card to is being offered to the participant who loses the highest percentage of body weight by Labor Day.

If you have already registered for New Year, New You, New Foot (or hand) you don't need to contact us to continue your participation. The percentage lost will be calculated based upon the starting weight that was reported back in January when the contest began. If you did not register for the initial contest but would like to participate, please send me an email ( with your starting weight, contact information and current photo.

We realize that losing weight can be a frustrating undertaking, and we are pleased to be able to offer the gift card as a motivational incentive. If you are looking for support, we invite you to visit the OPC page on Facebook where you can connect with other patients who are working towards a healthier weight.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

When Do You Need a New Socket?

We frequently hear our patients remark about the comfort of their new sockets. Changes to the limb can occur slowly, allowing the amputee to adjust with minimal awareness. In some cases it is only when a new socket is fitted that our patient realizes how uncomfortable the previous prosthetic had become!

Unfortunately, a timeline does not exist for prosthetic sockets. Unlike vehicles which require routine check-ups and maintenance, sockets and many prosthetic components require little upkeep once the device is fitted properly. Many times the amputee is unaware that they require a new socket until a painful development brings them back to our office.

You don't have to wait for the onset of pain to investigate the necessity of a new socket. Here are some helpful guidelines concerning socket fit:

1. If you are consistently depending upon at least 10 ply socks to achieve a comfortable fit, it is recommended that you return to your prosthetist to evaluate whether you require a new socket. For those amputees that utilize a seal-in liner we recommend scheduling an appointment if you are consistently wearing 8 ply.

2. As the limb changes shape or loses volume, the individual may feel as if they are "bottoming out" in the socket. The socket may feel higher around the residual limb or the rim of the socket may be causing small pinch cuts or abrasions. This is an indication that a new socket may be appropriate.

3. Fluctuations in weight often result a tight or loose socket. Generally, a new socket may be necessary for each two pant sizes that are lost or gained.

4. Changes in gait style or in walking speed often indicate socket issues. Limb changes are often naturally accommodated through variations in walking style without being deliberately addressed. If you feel that your walking is "different," it may indicate that a new socket is necessary.

5. Increased phantom limb pain, especially at night, may indicate an ill-fitting prosthetic.

If you have any questions or concerns about the fit of your socket, we encourage you to give us a call. Many times a small change can make a world of difference when it comes to prosthetic fit.

Thursday, June 9, 2011


Prosthetic advancements have not been limited to lower extremity devices. Arm and hand amputees have benefited from advances in bionic and computerized limb technology during the past few years. One of the manufacturer leaders in this field is Touch Bionics.

Touch Bionics specializes in developing hand and finger prosthetics. In 2007 Touch Bionics released the world's first fully articulating hand which has revolutionized the way that upper extremity prosthetics are approached.

Prior to 2007, prosthetic hands were designed to clamp objects in one fashion. The purpose of the prosthetic was to provide a stabilizer to hold or to pick up an object so that the manipulation could occur with the sound hand. The ability to switch grip was not possible.

The i-LIMB hand touts prosthetic fingers that are capable of moving, in isolation, at each joint. The wearer is able to control the movements of the hand through myoelectric controls. Sensors are placed on the remaining limb to capture the muscle movement that is produced as the individual mimics moving their amputated hand. The signals produced are communicated through the prosthetic hand utilizing state of the art computer technology.

With practice, the wearer of the i-LIMB hand is able to vary the grasp position and pressure. The wearer of this prosthetic is not limited to one type of grasp and can manipulate items with a more natural movement. Isolating finger movements allow the individual to return to many fine motor tasks that were previously deemed impossible, such as playing a guitar and typing on a keyboard. This hand can be fit with a variety of cosmetic covers to produce the most realistic responding and looking prosthetic hand available.

The i-LIMB technology has changed the way that prosthetics are approached with upper extremity amputees. Function and form combine to create the most life-like prosthetic hand available. The practitioners at OPC are experienced working this this technology and stand ready to help upper extremity amputees reach their goals.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Vacation Travel Tips

Traveling with a prosthetic can be a daunting experience, especially for the novice traveler. However, a little preparation and some knowledge can make the experience of getting to your vacation destination easier and less stressful.

For those who are traveling by air this vacation season, be aware that TSA has increased their security screening procedures. It is recommended that the amputee passenger arrive at the airport at least 90 minutes before departure to accommodate for additional screening should it be deemed necessary. Keep in mind that TSA procedures vary by airport, but below is a list of general expectations when going through the security process.

1. Many airports, including BWI, utilize full body scanners. Being cleared through the use of this device deems additional screening, including the pat down, unnecessary.

2. If the airport does not have a full body scanner, the amputee traveler can expect a pat down and swab screening. The pat down has become more thorough in the past few months which has caused both anxiety and embarrassment for some travelers. The agent may take a piece of cloth and rub both the prosthetic and your hands for explosive residue.

3. Some airports utilize a castscope machine. This low radiation device takes an image inside the prosthetic socket (along with typical casts and braces). It is not unusual for the agent to take up to 6 images, and the process may add up to 20 minutes to your screening time.

Packing an appropriate carry-on bag can eliminate a lot of stress and potential obstacles for the amputee traveler. It is recommended that the following items be included in the carry-on bag:

1. additional socks of various ply (keep in mind that changes in altitude can cause the volume fluctuations)

2. prescription medications and over the counter pain medication

3. lotion (be sure to keep the bottle within the size restrictions allowed by TSA)

4. hand sanitizer to facilitate donning your prosthesis (again, be sure to keep the bottle small and within the one ounce limits)

5. shrinker sock

6. battery charging mechanism (for bionic prosthetics)

7. handicapped parking hang tag (so that it can utilized while at you destination)

Packing some simple amenities can make staying away from home more comfortable and accessible. You might want to consider bringing a suction cup grab bar and folding shower stool. Although most hotels provide a shower chair upon request, the requests are honored on a first come/ first serve basis and there is often no guarantee that one will be available when you check in. Being prepared with an additional liner and sleeve (if appropriate) will help stave off a panic should something malfunction while on vacation.

Taking some extra time to prepare can help thwart a vacation catastrophe. Should your prosthetic break while you are out of the area, please give us a call. We will do our best to talk you through a repair (utilizing Skype if access is available). If repairs cannot be made we will do our best to refer you to a facility that can help!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Elite Blade by Endolite

Continuing with this week's series of high activity feet, we will take a look at the Elite Blade, by Endolite. This foot is categorized for a k3-k4 amputee and is appropriate for both the weekend athlete and the gym rat.

The Elite Blade is a carbon fiber foot that is both durable and lightweight. Because of the materials used, this foot is considered water safe. From running cross country through a stream to walking through the streets of DC, this high energy foot will respond to your needs.

Unlike the Re-Flex VSP, which relies upon a side spring to produce energy return, the Elite Blade utilizes a compression heel. When fully loaded, the heel compresses creating tension within the carbon fiber. As the foot is unloaded, the response of the heel returning to its normal state produces the energy through the foot. In essence, the heel becomes the "spring" to create a responsive foot.

Shock absorption occurs through the compression of the heel upon impact. Although the Elite Blade does not provide as much impact absorption as the VSP, it has proven to be adequate for the casual athlete.

The Elite Blade can be ordered in a regular or low profile option for those with a longer residual limb. It can be fit for both the above knee and the below knee amputee. Because of its slim design it can be easily fitted with a cosmetic cover.

We have successfully fit the Elite Blade by Endolite on many of our patients. If you are active and are looking for a more responsive sport prosthesis, this foot might be for you.