Tuesday, March 15, 2011

To Shave or Not To Shave...

Much to the chagrin of many of our patients, we recommend that the residual limb remain unshaved. Cosmetically we realize that this is a difficult recommendation to heed. However, it is important to remember that hair is the body's first line of protection, and it is growing on our body for a reason.

Shaving leaves the residual limb vulnerable to a plethora of issues, including cuts and nicks. Small cuts may take longer to heal or may become infected because of the conditions that the limb is subjected to within the socket. Issues involving reduced circulation only serve to increase the risk of infection. A seemingly benign nick can quickly become an infected ulcer rendering the amputee without their prosthetic and forced to undergo medical interventions.

The pain of ingrown hairs is amplified when they develop on the residual limb. The amputee may experience discomfort when donning the device, and in some situations he or she may be forced to stop using the prosthesis. A small ingrown hair exposed to the oxygen-restricted, moist and constricting environment within the liner and prosthetic can quickly grow into an infected sore.

Laser hair removal is a good option for many amputees who are self-conscience about remaining unshaved. We have worked with several patients who have undergone the procedure with positive results. Although it can be pricey, many insurances have covered the procedure for amputees.

The procedure typically requires 2-4 visits in order to obtain results. The amputee may be without their prosthetic for 24 to 48 hours after each session depending upon the surface area covered and the coarseness of the hair shafts that are being treated.

Not everybody is a candidate for laser hair removal, so it is important to thoroughly investigate if this is a viable option. Those who are light skinned with dark hair typically yield excellent results. Patients with darker complexions and lighter hair are not always good candidates.

Maintaining the health of the limb and obtaining prosthetic success is paramount, and shaving puts both of these priorities at undue risk. If hair removal is cosmetically important to you, we recommend putting down the razor and investigating the safer alternative of laser hair removal.


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