Removable Rigid Dressings for Postoperative Management of Transtibial Amputations: A Review of Published Evidence

James P. Reichmann, Phillip M. Stevens, John Rheinstein, Christopher Kreulen

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Forty years of clinical experience and peer-reviewed research studies support the use of nonweight-bearing removable rigid dressings (RRDs) as an effective means of postoperative management of transtibial amputations. We reviewed the published medical evidence regarding the use of RRDs as a postoperative management strategy, culminating in an evidence-based practice recommendation. Published peer-reviewed literature on the topic was searched and classified by level of evidence based on the research design using the scale recommended by the PM&R (level I through V). The search uncovered a total of 15 articles, including 5 level I randomized controlled trials, 6 level III retrospective matched controlled trials, and 4 level V case reports. A number of benefits associated with the application of RRDs compared with soft dressings were reported across these 15 studies. These included faster healing times, reduced limb edema, preparatory contouring of the residual limb in anticipation of prosthetic use, the prevention of knee flexion contractures, and reduced external trauma to the limb. Also described were an increased probability of successful prosthetic use and pain reduction. The RRDs studied permitted regular inspection of surgical wounds with greater ease and consistency of application than traditional soft dressing approaches. Rigid dressings provide all the same benefits of RRDs except ease of wound inspection, therefore rendering them impractical for the 82% of patients receiving an amputation for ischemic disease that are at high risk of developing wound dehiscence. Weight-bearing immediate postoperative prostheses are almost exclusively reserved for use on trauma patients who usually do not show evidence of vascular or neurologic impairment. The inherent risks of falls and inconsistent pressure on the surgical wound have further restricted their use in practice to a limited patient type. The benefits of RRDs compared with soft dressings are universally recognized in the published peer-reviewed medical evidence to be superior to soft dressings. Based on the best-available current published evidence, nonweight-bearing removable rigid dressings should be considered the first treatment choice for the postoperative care of transtibial amputees to optimize outcomes with regard to reductions in injury due to falls, knee flexion contractures, edema, healing time, time to prosthetic fitting, and pain. Level of Evidence: II

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)516-523
Number of pages8
JournalPM and R
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation
  • Rehabilitation
  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


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