It is important to control the swelling in your residual limb after surgery. How your residual limb looks after surgery will depend on the type of dressing used to control the swelling. There are 3 types of dressings that are used to control swelling – soft, semi-rigid or rigid dressings. The dressing is worn over the initial wound care for your incision. Your doctor will decide which dressing is best for you.
There are 3 types of soft dressings – elastic tubular stocking, an elastic bandage and a limb shrinker sock.
Elastic tubular stocking
An elastic tubular stocking is an elastic sock that can be worn right after surgery. Someone from your healthcare team will measure your limb to find the right size of stocking. This dressing is worn over the other dressings like a sock. You will need to change this dressing as often as your doctor tells you to. The healthcare team will teach you or your support person how to put on the dressing. They will put on the dressing until you are able to put it on yourself.
Tensor (elastic) bandage
A tensor bandage isn’t often used since it can be hard to put on correctly. But it is sometimes used if the residual limb is an unusual shape or if the swelling can only be controlled by this type of dressing. If you use a tensor bandage, it should be taken off for 15 minutes every 4 to 6 hours.
A limb shrinker is a fitted sock that puts gentle pressure on the end of the residual limb to manage swelling. It’s usually fitted by a prosthetist (specialist who makes prostheses).
Semi-rigid dressings are like a soft cast that helps to reduce swelling in your residual limb better than a simple soft dressing. They are used over the wound care dressing and are only worn for a short time until the incision heals. A semi-rigid dressing may be put on right after your surgery or the first time the wound care dressing is changed. It can be used for up to 7 days and removed when there is a wound care dressing change. When this dressing is no longer needed you will be fitted for a soft dressing.
Rigid dressings are casts made of plaster that may be put on right after surgery. They are usually left on for 7 to 10 days. If your incision heals well, you will get another cast or a soft dressing.
Rigid dressings are only used if your residual limb needs extra protection or to allow you to walk sooner. If you walk with a rigid dressing, you will need to have a post (called a pylon) attached to the cast so you can put weight on the limb. While the incision heals, you will only be allowed to put some weight on the limb. If you put too much weight on the incision too soon, it won’t heal well. Your therapist will show you how to walk using the cast with a walking post.