Holistic rehabilitation goals are essential to combat the effects of an amputation
An amputee faces many challenges. The loss of a limb can be devastating and will affect all aspects of an individual’s life. The most obvious impact is on their physical life, however losing a limb will also have a psychological and emotional effect, as well as making a real difference to a patient’s social life and surroundings.
Anyone undergoing an amputation will not only need to adapt physically but is likely also to experience grief and depression – not uncommonly, amputees go through a period of grieving while they adjust to life under new circumstances and attempt to come to terms with sudden physical changes. Another common problem is phantom limb pain and phantom limb sensation; patients may also feel socially isolated, fearing what other people will think of them and worrying they may be a hindrance to others in a social setting.
Early intervention is essential, both from a physical and a psychological point of view, in order to overcome any of the many problems a patient might be facing after an amputation, especially if their amputation is the result of a traumatic accident.
Early referral to a rehabilitation service that sets clear pre-prosthetic goals is vital – this will help ensure an appropriate prosthesis is chosen to suit an amputee’s needs. Expectations differ, and the success of an individual’s rehabilitation can vary according to their age. An understanding of a patient’s general level of physical ability, such as their tolerance of sitting or standing and their ability to balance, is important. Their hobbies should also be taken into account with a view to understanding how the prosthesis will be used, and timing is crucial. The individual’s general condition is an important factor – the initial prosthetic fitting should not take place until the wound has healed sufficiently, as a poorly-fitted prosthetic can cause long-term structural change in the body and may result in potentially permanent muscular pain.
An amputee’s recovery is a long and often slow process. Many issues will arise as their stump heals and undergoes change, and an amputee must adjust to a new gait and balance. Setting effective, individual goals is essential as this will help them adjust, and early prosthetic rehabilitation including counselling is key – putting the right professional team in place will make a big difference to an amputee’s future.
Emma Dryden. Solicitor, Personal Injury department.General, George Ide, News, Personal Injury Blog