The definition of an amputation is “the action of surgically cutting off a limb,” however, an amputation can also happen by accident. Many times, an amputation of the hand, finger or arm is the result of a tragic accident, but amputations can also be planned surgeries to prevent the spread of a disease. Sometimes, fingers that were amputated in an accident can be reattached by a hand surgeon, but this isn’t always possible.
Losing a hand, finger, arm or any other limb can be tragic both physically and emotionally. Recovery will take place in a few different ways, including:
There’s no doubt that the initial couple of weeks after an amputation surgery can be painful, similar to other major surgeries. Your surgeon may help with the pain by prescribing pain medications such as opioids or suggesting a heat treatment or cold treatment.
Unfortunately, the pain with an amputation may not stop there. Because amputations affect the nerves, many amputees suffer from long-term symptoms including:
- Cold sensitivity
- Abnormal sensations
- Phantom sensation or pain
Your surgeon can also help with these symptoms. Keep your surgeon updated on your symptoms, and he/she will recommend the best treatment options. For some people, this may mean a second surgery.
One of the biggest aspects of recovering from an amputation is regaining the functionality that you’ve lost. Losing a hand, arm or even just a finger can make it more difficult to complete everyday tasks that most people take for granted, including eating, getting dressed, opening a door, etc. There are different ways to help with regaining function, including:
- Hand Therapy: Certified hand therapists are specially trained to help patients regain function in their hand, fingers or arms, and they are especially helpful for amputee patients. They’ll work with you on exercises, help you adjust to a new way of doing certain things, and potentially provide you with a splint or supportive device.
- Prosthetic: A prosthetic hand, finger or arm is an artificial part that can replace some of the function and appearance of the missing hand, finger or arm. Prosthesis can range from a life-like finger that extends the length of a partially missing finger to a full mechanical hand. They can allow amputees the ability to hold objects again and use bendable fingers.
Losing an arm, hand, finger or other body part can be traumatizing and may change your life drastically. It can be hard to accept these changes, which is why visiting a counselor, talking to your doctor, or communicating with other amputees can be important to a full recovery after an amputation.
Learn more about amputations and prosthetic hand and fingers on HandCare.org from the American Society for Surgery of the Hand.