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How to Deal with the Pain after Amputational Surgery

After Surgery

Pain, What to Expect There are several different types of pain associated with limb amputation.

Phantom Pain Phantom Pain is commonly experienced by post amputees and can feel as real as true pain.

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Immediate Post Operative Pain

During the first 72 hours following an amputation, swelling occurs, tissues are stretched, severed nerves are not sending normal impulses to the spinal cord, and many other new realities are being experienced. Tension, fear, anger and denial may be producing a strong emotional "stew" for the new amputee. Physically, this is the time that patients will experience the most severe pain. There is clear evidence that adequate relief of pain and anxiety during this chaotic period is extremely important in preventing long-term Post Operative Pain.


It is important to consider various types of pain relief in the postoperative period, including narcotic and non-narcotic analgesic medications, anti-anxiety medications, and anti-depressants. Narcotic pain medications like morphine, Demerol and Fentanyl have been used for years to relieve severe pain. The use of these strong pain medications has been the cornerstone of relieving pain after amputation.

Patient Controlled Analgesia

An administration technique is known as Patient Controlled Analgesia. This means that the patient actually controls the timing of the doses of pain medication. To do this, a small electric pump containing a syringe of pain medication is attached to a switch. When the patient pushes a button, the pump gives a premeasured dose of the pain medicine. The doctor determines how much medicine is safe and how often it can be given. The analgesia is then given through an intravenous tube so that it enters the blood stream immediately. A small amount can be given as often as every six to 10 minutes. This has several benefits compared to the traditional injection in the muscle. It takes effect much more quickly, and there is less risk of over-sedating the patient. This method also gives the patient more control of his or her medication and the quick onset helps to relieve the anxiety of waiting for medication delivered in other ways.

In addition to narcotic pain medications, less potent non-narcotic analgesics include aspirin, acetaminophen, ibuprofen, and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. All are useful when properly administered and should be used with guidance from a surgeon and anesthesiologist. Other medications that can be helpful include tranquilizers such as Vistaril, anti-depressants such as Elavil, and anti-seizure medications such as Neurontin.

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