Prosthetic & Orthotic Information Resource

Limb Loss Frequently Asked Questions

Amputee Related Concerns

Terms and Definitions for Amputees

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Limb Loss Information for Amputees

Click on a question below:

1. What are Limb Loss and Limb Differences?  

2. How frequently does it occur in the population?

3. What causes Limb Loss and Limb Differences?   

4. How can I reduce the risk of amputation?   

5. Are there increased risks for other health problems?  

6. What is involved in caring for people with Limb Loss and Limb Differences?


7. How long will it be before I can walk or use my prosthetic arm or hand again?

8. I have lost a foot due to Diabetes, how can I prevent loss of the other one?

9. Who can I contact for more information?  

10. Where can I find Managed Care, Medicare and other funding information?

11. Suggested Reading

List of amputation related definitions

 


1. What are Limb Loss and Limb Differences?

Limb loss generally refers to the absence of any part of an extremity (arm or leg) due to surgical or traumatic amputation.  The term, Limb Differences, is used in reference to the congenital absence or malformation of limbs.

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2. How frequently does it occur in the population?  

In 2007, there are approximately 1.7 million people with limb loss in the United States (excluding fingers and toes). There are more than 185,000 new amputations performed each year in this country. The prevalence rate in 1996 was 4.9 per 1,000 persons. The incidence rate was 46.2 per 100,000 persons with dysvascular disease, 5.86 per 100,000 persons secondary to trauma, 0.35 per 100,000 secondary to malignancy of a bone or joint. The birth prevalence of congenital limb difference in 1996 was 25.64 per 100,000 live births. The prevalence rate is highest among people aged 65 years and older ~ 19.4 per 1,000.

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3. What causes Limb Loss and Limb Differences? 

Limb loss can occur due to trauma, infection, diabetes, vascular disease, cancer and other diseases.  The causes of congenital Limb Differences are frequently unknown.  In the past, many cases of Limb Difference were attributed to the use of drugs, such as thalidomide by the mother during pregnancy.  

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4. How can I reduce the risk of amputation? 

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5. Are there increased risks for other health problems?

Limb Loss is more often the result of, rather than the cause of other health problems.  Since the loss of a limb can result in decreased activity, the risk of health problems associated with a sedentary lifestyle may be increased.  Residual limb and phantom pain, as well as skin problems associated with prosthesis use are also common.

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6. What is involved in caring for people with Limb Loss and Limb Differences?

Care for a person who has undergone amputation, will depend greatly upon his or her overall health and strength.  Persons who are candidates for prosthesis use will make several visits to their prosthetic facility to obtain a correctly fitting device.  Physical/occupational therapy or gait training may be needed to facilitate successful use of prostheses and other assistive devices to regain independence.  Some new amputees may also need professional assistance with emotional adjustment to limb loss.  Amputees whose health does not permit prosthesis use may require more assistance with mobility and transfers.  

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7. I have lost a foot due to Diabetes, how can I prevent loss of the other one?

A. At a minimum: Establish a relationship with a physician who specializes in diabetic foot problems, see his/her regularly and follow all instructions. A vast majority of patients can significantly reduce the likelihood of losing a limb by following these 10 simple rules:

1. Establish a relationship with a physician who specializes in diabetic foot problems.
2. See your doctor regularly and follow his/her instructions.
3. Examine your feet daily and report problems such as ingrown toenails, red spots, cuts or other wounds to your physician at once! 4. Never walk without wearing shoes.
5. Wash your feet daily.
6. Maintain your ideal weight.
7. Wear thick, soft socks.
8. Give up smoking.
9. Cut toenails straight across.
10. Be properly measured and fit every time you buy new shoes

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8. How long will it be before I can walk or use my prosthetic arm or hand again?

A. Due to the many variances of all sorts of patients, not everyone progresses at the same pace. There are so many variables it is impossible to determine when you will receive your prosthic device without a thorough evaluation from a qualified prosthetician.

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9. Who can I contact for more information?

The Amputee Coalition of America's National Limb Loss Information Center

Toll Free:  (888)267-5669
Online: Ask the NLLIC Form

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10. Where can I find Managed Care, Medicare and other funding information?

Your patient advocate or the social services department at your hospital can assist you with finding appropriate funding resources.  For further information you may contact:

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11. Suggested Reading:  

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