What To Expect After Leg Amputation
Those individuals who have suffered catastrophic injuries resulting in amputation experience life-altering changes that will affect them and their loved ones for the rest of their lives. Beyond the physical change victims experience, rehabilitation after a leg amputation tends to be a long and challenging process – it can also be quite expensive.
Amputations cause permanent disability and may lead to serious medical complications. Leg amputations are more commonly found in motor vehicle collisions, but these types of injuries may also result from on the job injuries, pedestrian accidents, dog bites, railroad injuries or other incidents.
Although each patient’s progress will depend on their overall health, diagnosis and age, there are typically five stages to expect after a leg amputation.
Recovering in the hospital
Following an amputation, you may stay in the hospital for between three and seven days after surgery. If the patient has health problems or is elderly, the hospital stay may be longer. The main goals in this stage are:
- Controlling the pain
- Caring for your wound as it heals
- Stretching and strengthening your muscles
- Learning how to transfer from your bed and other surfaces safely
- Learning how to use walking aids such as walkers, rollators or canes
- Learning how to manage every-day living skills
Preparing for your prosthesis
It is crucial to follow the instructions provided by the surgeon and nursing staff once the patient has returned home. It is likely for patients to take pain-relieving medications including aspirin, which may increase the risk of bleeding. Any complications that occur at home need to be addressed including:
- Chills and/or fever
- Tingling or numbing sensations in the remaining arm or leg
- Intense pain at the amputation site
- Any bleeding, swelling or redness at the incision site
- Drainage from the incision site
Once you have arrived home and for about a month, you may begin to prepare for your prosthesis fitting. The main goals during this time are:
- Taking good care of your wound (sutures or staples will still be in)
- Attempting to keep your residual limb straight as often as you can
- Continuing exercises that were taught in the hospital
- Ensuring to move around carefully at all times to prevent falls
- Attending all follow-up appointments
Getting fitted for your prosthesis
Some of the most critical tasks during rehabilitation are ensuring the prosthesis fits properly and that the skin gradually develops a resistance to the socket. Your first visit to the prosthetist for fitting will take place once your wound has healed. You should receive a preparatory, or temporary prosthesis about three weeks after the first fitting. The main goals of this stage include:
- Caring for your residual limb daily
- Daily use of a shrinker sock (elastic sock used to control swelling, promote healing and assist in shaping amputated leg)
- Desensitization and scar massage (treatment to decrease sensitivity)
- Progression in exercises to strengthen your stump, remaining leg, arms and your balance
Learning to use your prosthesis
The preparatory prosthesis will be used for about two to six months. Once your residual limb has reached a stable size, you may receive a definitive prosthesis which will look more natural and may have more advanced parts. A physical therapist will manage the amount of time you wear the prosthesis. You will typically start wearing your prosthesis for about 15 to 30 minutes a day, twice a day and increase wear time based on your skin integrity.
You will learn how to do the following during this stage:
- Don (put on) and off (take off) the prosthesis
- Manage and clean your sock ply and gel liner
- Walk with your prosthesis using parallel bars
- Use a walking aid such as a walker or a cane
- Attempt to walk without an aid
- Prevent falls
- Care for the prosthesis
- Increase the amount of time you wear your prosthesis
Returning to routine activities
You may resume to many activities that have been a part of your life once you feel ready. There may be new obstacles that come up along the way, so it will be helpful to keep the following goals in mind as you become more active.
- Continue to work with your health care team to maintain your health
- Develop a support system with the help of your family and friends
- Return to important activities such as a job and social activities
- Exercise coping techniques such as deep breathing techniques used in mediation to help you deal with new challenges that may arise.
Coping with mental effects of leg amputation
It is very important for individuals who have experienced life-changing injuries such as leg amputation, to talk and express how they feel about the situation they are in. Many people who suffer similar injuries can feel depressed and withdrawn because they no longer have the life they used to and are struggling to adjust to the dramatic changes. Counseling is a great fit for many individuals who have had to experience the loss of a limb. It is a great resource to help both the patient and their family to come to terms with the accident and injury, the outcome and the altered future.
Complications after surgery
There is a possibility of complications arising from having a limb amputated. The specifics of the accident and the amount of time it took the victim to seek medical attention are some factors that either decrease or increase chances of complications. Some serious complications that may occur after having a limb amputated include:
- Stump or phantom limb pain
- Psychological problems
- Slow wound healing
- Blood clots
- Heart complications
Why you need an attorney
You don’t want to go through the stressful process of handling all of the paperwork, proving liability, negotiating with the insurance companies and third parties on your own. A seasoned personal injury amputation attorney will be your best advocate as you pursue compensation through a legal claim for a lost limb.
You may be eligible to recover medical costs (past and future), rehabilitation and occupational therapies, prosthetic equipment, lost wages, the lost capacity to earn, pain, suffering and more. An experienced attorney will know what steps to take and how to overcome the difficulties presented by the insurance company to stall or undervalue your claim. Although it is not possible to undo the devastating harm you have endured, recovering compensation will be useful to move on with your life.
How The Carlson Law Firm can help
Here at The Carlson Law Firm, we understand the difficult path to recovery limb loss victims have to face which is why we want to help if you or a loved one has experienced amputation due to another’s negligence. We have over four decades of experience representing personal injury victims. It will be our mission to recover maximum compensation on your behalf while you take time to fully recover both physically and emotionally. We offer free, no-obligation consultations and are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
- Written by Adriana Torres