Living With Amputation

Prosthetic Limb

Prosthetics by Marc Poppleton

Nearly 2 million people in the United States live with the loss of a limb. Of those 2 million people approximately 45% represent individuals who lost a limb* due to some sort of trauma, while 54% represent amputations due to vascular diseases, such as diabetes. Traumatic amputations usually are a result of factory, farm or power tool accidents or in instances automobile accidents in addition to war injuries and natural disasters.

In instances of serious accidents or injury, victims can be faced with the need for amputation, which is the loss of a body part– most commonly a finger, toe, arm or leg.While victims often are hopeful that quick medical care will ensure the viability of their limb, sometimes the resulting injury doesn’t provide doctors with the ability to reattach a partially or fully severed extremity. There are a number of factors including age, type of amputation, and general state of health that influence the risk faced by an individuals undergoing an amputation. Complications tend to arise more commonly in planned amputations, often health related involving an elderly individual, and are less prominent in emergency situations.

However as is true with every surgical procedure various complications can arise following an amputation, such as bleeding, shock and infection. Other complications noted in patients who have underwent amputation as heart complications, blood clots, pneumonia and possibility of further surgery being necessary. A commonly referenced phenomena is phantom limb pain, which is where a patient experiences pain that seems to be coming from the amputated limb. It has been estimated that 50-80% of individuals who have underwent an amputation experience some form of phantom limb pain, although it is more prevalent among those who have had upper extremity amputation and women. Incomplete nerve regeneration continues to be a major limiting factor, even as new limb replantation techniques are explored.

The technology and knowledge relating to amputations and the long-term care of those who have underwent amputation have advanced with time and now amputees have options other than just wheel chair mobility. Often patients who have suffered a serious injury requiring amputation are likely to have a better outcome with a functional prosthesis, artificial body part, rather than replanting the particular limb, which may have either been limited or nonfunctional.
If you or a loved one have suffered a serious injury that resulted in amputation the road to recovery can be a long one and the medical expenses are costly.

*Ziegler-Graham K, MacKenzie EJ, Ephraim PL, Travison TG, Brookmeyer R. Estimating the Prevalence of Limb Loss in the United States: 2005 to 2050. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation2008;89(3):422-9.


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