Facts about Amputation
According to the National Center for Health Statistics, it is estimated that more than 1.5 million people in the United States have lost an extremity. This equates to almost 6 cases per 1,000 people.
It is widely agreed that amputation is surgery of last resort: irreparable loss of the blood supply to a diseased or injured limb is the only absolute indication for amputation. Amputation is particularly difficult to overcome for older adults and their families. The aging process has already forced physical and mental limitations on many older individuals, and the prospect of prolonged rehabilitation can seem overwhelming. However, advances in the science of prosthetics have led to better long-range results. Health care professionals are in key positions to encourage these patients and to help them understand that, in most cases, their lifestyle can be restored with an appropriate prosthetic device.
The Importance of a Healthy Residual Limb
The thought of amputation is a difficult subject to understand. Most people don’t want to face it or think about it. When most people face a life-threatening situation, the last thing on their mind is what shape the residual limb will be in following surgery. However, it is very important to realize that the way the amputation is done will significantly impact that person’s life forever.
Fortunately, the approach today is much different than in years past. The medical team and the patient will view an amputation as “reconstructive,” focusing on creating a residual limb that will provide the most function following surgery. If the amputation is not an emergency, it is usually best to consult with a prosthetist before surgery. As a team, the patient, surgeon, therapist, and prosthetist can discuss the best options for future prosthetic success.