There are approximately 1.8 million people living with amputations in the U.S. An amputation may be necessary for a number of different reasons and learning to adapt to an amputation, particularly if a prothesis is required, can be a lengthy and emotional process that involves time, patience, and perseverance.
An amputation is surgery to remove part or all of a limb, such as a leg, foot, toe, arm, hand, or finger. The leg, either above or below the knee, is the most common type of amputation surgery. An amputation may be required for a number of reasons, including:
- Peripheral arterial disease (poor circulation and reduced blood flow to the limb)
- Severe injury, such as from a vehicle accident
- Cancerous tumor in the limb, such as in the bone or muscle
- Serious infection that has not responded to other treatment and antibiotics
The procedure may be carried out under general anesthesia or with spinal anesthesia – in which the body is numbed from the waist down. During the procedure, the surgeon removes all the damaged or diseased tissue and bone, smooths uneven areas of bone, and seals off blood vessels and nerves, all with the aim to leave as much healthy tissue intact as possible. The surgeon may also prepare the muscles at the end of the limb for a prosthetic limb to be attached in due course.
An amputation requires a hospital stay, which on average can be 5-14 days depending on the type of surgery, the limb to be amputated, the patient’s overall health, and whether there are any complications.
Recovery will depend on the procedure being performed and the method of anesthesia being used. The wound may be closed straightaway or may be left open for several days in case additional tissue may need to be removed. The wound will be protected with a sterile dressing. Sometimes, a stocking may be placed over it to keep the bandages secure or to hold drainage tubes in place. Initially, the limb may be placed in traction or a splint to hold it in position following surgery. Medication to relieve pain and prevent infection may be necessary following surgery.
Wound healing is monitored closely by medical staff and dressings are changed regularly to ensure risk of infection is minimized. Any medical conditions, such as diabetes, are also monitored to ensure healing is not compromised. Use of an artificial limb can begin in as little as 10-14 days after surgery, depending on how well the wound is healing. The wound should heal completely in approximately 4-8 weeks.
It is not unusual for patients to experience phantom pain following an amputation. Phantom pain refers to pain felt in a body part that is no longer there. It is believed these pain sensations originate in the brain and the spinal cord and occur as the nerves that went to the limb begin to rewire.
An amputee rehabilitation program uses a customized care plan that includes occupational therapy, safety assessments, balance screenings, and gait and transfer training, and is designed to help patients heal successfully and gain confidence to enable them to return to an active, healthy, and productive lifestyle.
Physical therapy is extremely important following amputation, and it begins soon after surgery. Initially, therapy may be passive and can including gentle stretching exercises. Physical therapy helps patients:
- Learn to use and care for a prosthesis
- Use assistive devices
- Care for the stump, especially when wearing a prosthesis
- Restore ability to carry out day-to-day activities independently
- Exercise to improve control, balance, and strength
Recovery from amputation can take time, particularly the emotional aspect of coming to terms with life without a limb. Counseling can be an important way to learn to deal with the grief associated with losing a limb and the adjustments to appearance and lifestyle that it brings along.
Complete Amputation Care in Sherman, Texas
At Carrus, we recognize that it takes a combination of mental, emotional, and physical readiness to restore a patient’s ability to live independently following an amputation. Our healthcare team excels in providing the care, compassion, and motivation to help you heal and recover successfully. We have a 24-bed rehabilitation facility equipped to provide patients with advanced medical care and physician-supervised rehabilitation therapies, including daily physician visits and around-the-clock nursing care.
At Carrus, our focus is on improving the health and independence of patients, while addressing the needs of mind, body, and spirit. We offer individualized care plans for patients dealing with an amputation, and our physicians and medical team will provide the treatment and education that patients and their loved ones need in order to adapt to life going forward. For more information about the services we offer, call us at (903) 870-2600.