Prosthetic Liners play a significant role in your comfort and mobility as a prosthetic user. These jelly roll-on products fit over your residual limb and go in between your limb and the prosthetic socket--a shell that encases your limb and connects you to your prosthesis. If you either use a vacuum or suction suspension system, you'll also need a sealing sleeve.
Prosthetic liners are very important because they help reduce movement and chafing between your skin and socket. Its flexible, cushiony material makes walking and moving much easier and more comfortable. Making sure your prothesis fits right and is comfortable to wear lies heavily on choosing the right prosthetic liner.
What are my options?
- Silicone – Best for those with limbs that have soft tissue. Silicone liners give high stability and adequate adhesion and work best with shuttle-lock suspension (padded liners with a pin at the end). Silicone is durable, easy to maintain, and is soft yet resistant to pressure.
- Polyurethane (PUR) – Flows away from high pressure and is best for sensitive, bony, or scarred residual limbs. PUR enables socket pressure to be well-distributed and dampens the pressure on your limb; works best with vacuum or suction suspension.
- Copolymer – Soft, cushiony, and highly elastic; great for residual limbs with dry skin. Works best with pin or suction suspension, and ideal for many types of residual limbs with low activity.
- TPE – Also known as thermoplastic elastomer. This ultra-soft and most commonly used prosthetic material is a gel compound that provides padding and a tight seal.
Prosthetic liners also have different features: some are antibacterial, while others contain textile outer layers for easy application, or have non-stick and puncture-resistant attributes.
How do Prosthetic liners wear out?
Here are several reasons why liners wear out and eventually need replacing:
- Your limb shrinks. When your limb changes in size and creates a loose area within your socket, excessive motion occurs and the gel or silicone in your liner absorbs all the friction.
- You accidentally tear your liner. Everything eventually wears down in time, and while silicone may be durable, accidental tears from sharp nails or other pointy implements can do their damage.
- Your liner was cleaned with harsh chemicals. Make sure to rinse your liner thoroughly after wiping it with rubbing alcohol or other alcohol-based products. Alcohol, when used over a prolonged period of time, dries up your liner and causes the gel to crack.
- Animal products in skin care products. Animal fats, like lanolin in Adaptskin, or mutton tallow in soaps, creams, and lotions, can break down the gel or silicone in your prosthetic liner. Make sure to read the ingredients of your next skin care purchase.
- When Velcro causes pilling against your liner's fabric. Similar to mismanaged cashmere, Velcro is the enemy if you have a liner that's covered in fabric.
- Scrubbing your liner's gel. When caring for your liner, you begin to scrub the gel and this scrubbing action can shorten the lifespan of your liner.
Caring for your Prosthetic Liner
- Proper hygiene. Clean your liner regularly and thoroughly before you head to bed; make sure to disinfect it weekly.
- Use lukewarm tap water and avoid harsh chemicals. Opt for a pH-balanced cleanser that's gentle on your skin.
- Soft cloths or sponges are best to apply soap with, but make sure they’re clean.
- After rinsing off the soap thoroughly with water, place a dab of ethyl or isopropyl alcohol on a soft and clean cloth.
- Gently and lightly wipe the cleanser onto the side of the liner that touches your skin for 2 minutes. Make sure to rinse the alcohol right after.
What do I do when my liner wears out?
Don't panic! Call your Prosthetist right away and confirm if it still falls under warranty—most liners are covered by a 6 month to 1-year warranty. However, if your health care provider needs to replace your prosthetic liner, you will need to acquire a sound letter of medical justification. Insurance providers are known for denying claims, so work closely with your prosthetist and make sure you have all the necessary documents to avoid this from happening.
Check our our Prosthetic Liner Guide for more continuously updated information.