Physical and emotional effects
The amputation of a limb is a major operation and it can have a number of both physical and emotional effects on the amputee.
Physical effects can include phantom limb pain, stump pain, muscle contractures and adapting to prosthetics and the complications that can result through the use of a prosthetic:
Phantom limb pain is when an amputee experiences sensations or pain which appears to be originating from their amputated limb. Approximately 50 to 80 per cent of amputees suffer from varying degrees of phantom limb pain. The symptoms can be sensations from the amputated limb (itching or burning) or brief moments of pain or in the worst case, the amputee suffers from constant severe pain.
The symptoms may improve over time, but there are also various treatments available to try and help alleviate the pain.
Stump pain results from a number of complications following the amputation. It may be caused by the surgery itself (i.e. from nerve damage in the stump) or as a result of the use of a prosthetic. Prosthetics can cause sweat rashes, blisters, sores and abrasions through their contact with the stump and all of these conditions can be very painful.
Muscle contracture is the shortening of a muscle. A major impact of amputation is that it leads to a reduction in the amputee’s mobility, either as a result of being bedridden in hospital or confined to a wheelchair for long periods of time. Lack of the use of your muscles causes muscle weakness in your intact limbs and sitting for most of the day can lead to contractures in your hips or knees. This could then lead to further restrictions in mobility.
Adapting to prosthetics takes a lot of time and practice. Many activities are harder to perform and require more effort. The loss of a limb can affect an amputee’s balance, cause muscles imbalances, strains and postural problems. However, the appropriate rehabilitation programme and exercise regime can help to avoid or reduce any muscle problems and can help an amputee to learn new skills and techniques to enable them to perform day-to-day activities.
The emotional and psychological impact of the loss of a limb often has more of an affect on the amputee than any physical difficulties. Amputees frequently report that the loss of a limb can lead to grief and feelings similar to having suffered a bereavement. Psychological treatment is required to help amputees to go through the grieving process and to help them to deal with any feelings of frustration, anger or depression as they go through the rehabilitation process and adapt to life following the amputation.
The change in an amputee’s appearance can also affect their body image and self esteem. This can in turn have an impact on their relationships and their involvement in the community and social activities.
It is therefore of the utmost importance that the aftercare provided to amputees following surgery not only includes the involvement of a number of physical specialists (i.e. physiotherapy, occupational therapy, pain management etc), but also includes the necessary emotional and psychological support and advice.
At Stephensons, our clinical negligence solicitors are able to assist with arranging the appropriate medical care and support that you need to rebuild your life after an amputation. If you feel that you have suffered an avoidable amputation, please contact our specialist team who will be able to discuss your concerns on 0203 817 9430, alternatively complete our online enquiry form and a member of the team will contact you directly.