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Residual Limb Swelling


Jan J. Stokosa

, CP, Stokosa Prosthetic Clinic

Last full review/revision Dec 2019| Content last modified Dec 2019

Even after the residual limb (stump) matures 18 to 24 months after surgery, swelling can still occur. Having a well-fitting prosthesis socket is the best way to maintain a consistent residual-limb size. Measures that can be used when not wearing the prosthesis include applying external compression with

  • Elastic bandaging
  • An elastic compression garment
  • The viscoelastic interface used when wearing the prosthesis

In hot and humid weather, the residual limb may swell and sweat, making the prosthesis hard to put on. Showering, or immersing the residual limb in cold water for 3 to 5 minutes, and patting it dry immediately before putting the prosthesis on may help. After the prosthesis has been on for 5 to 15 minutes, it should be removed and immediately put back on. This strategy helps get the residual limb properly positioned within the socket. If cold immersion is not readily available, wrapping the residual limb with an elastic bandage or wearing the viscoelastic interface and elevating the limb for 20 minutes or more helps.

Additional measures to avoid problems with swelling include having a nutritious diet and following a consistent exercise program that involves exercise and/or physical therapy to maintain muscle mass.

(See also Overview of Limb Prosthetics.)

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