What exactly is a “house leg?” As slippers are to shoes, house legs are to an everyday prosthesis. The one’s I’ve made do not use a gel liner and they are quick to don and doff (thanks to Sir Walter Scott for bringing these 14th century words back en vogue!). I’m going to go ahead and take credit for coining the term “house legs” (and as one of my patients called them “mischief legs”), although the concept has surely been done before. The idea started in 2008 when I was on an adaptive ski trip with a group of Walter Reed wounded warriors. I shared a room with a couple of my patients, both with bilateral above knee amputations. The room was not exactly wheelchair assessable and I saw first-hand the difficulties they had navigating the tight space. Putting legs on takes too long just to walk to the bathroom and back to the bed.
We returned to Walter Reed and I made them my first sets of house legs. The design was short, lightweight, and used foam and socks as an interface rather than a gel liner. The idea caught on and I suddenly had many more requests for house legs, mostly from other bilateral above knees. Not all of them worked. With shorter, more conically shaped residual limbs, suspension became an issue. Adding a waist belt added to the complexity and ended up getting filed away in the “too hard to do” box. The easiest ones to fit are through joint amputations as they are often bulbous and the shape lends itself well to anatomical suspension. My wife, Emily, for example, has a through ankle amputation level and her house leg is so quick to put on that when the doorbell rings and our Chinese food is here, she can about stand up and put her leg on in the same amount of time it takes me to stand up. Admittedly, I get rather lazy in the evenings!
For the people with only one amputation and another good leg, hopping is often discouraged as it puts a lot of stress on the other side. Overuse injuries can add up over time. Also, in the dark, there’s a risk of stepping on something. Ouch! That’s why crutches, a walker or wheelchair is a safer bet. An option for some people with below knee amputations is a bent knee walking leg called the iWALK2.0. This is also good to have around on the occasion that the prosthesis is not comfortable.
Do you have a tip or trick for getting around the house during the night or while lounging around? If so, we’d love to hear from you!