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Living with an arm amputation

Before the amputation

Information on the topic of arm amputations, including preparation, support and amputation levels.

Summary

Preparing yourself for a planned amputation

You may have already known for some time that you have an amputation ahead of you. Even though this knowledge is very hard to bear – you are not on your own in this difficult phase of your life. Your treatment team will support you and be open to your questions and problems.

Preparation

What happens before the amputation?

Preliminary examinations

Before the operation, you are thoroughly examined several times in the hospital. Examinations include blood analyses, an X-ray of the lungs and testing the functions of the cardiovascular system.

Consultations with doctors

Before the amputation, the doctors in charge will explain to you what happens during the operation. They also talk to you in detail about the time after the amputation. You can ask any questions you consider important during these consultations. It is best to take notes before the consultations to avoid forgetting anything you want to ask the doctors. Don’t hesitate to ask follow-up questions if anything is unclear. It’s worth remembering that doctors are obliged to explain things to you more than once. In contrast to a planned amputation, an operation often has to be performed quickly when injuries are caused by an accident. Naturally, the consultations with doctors only happen after the amputation in such cases.

Systematic preparations

If possible, you should start doing exercises that are important for subsequent rehabilitation even before the operation. This will let you start strengthening your muscles in advance. Practising such activities early on can make the time after the operation considerably easier for you. Ask your doctor and physiotherapist what exercises are right for you.

It is also helpful if you talk to an O&P professional even before the amputation in order to determine which prostheses can later be considered for you or not. This gives you a better idea of what to expect in the course of your rehabilitation.

Psychological support

An amputation is a major event in your life that depletes your inner strength. We therefore advise you to take advantage of the opportunity to get psychological support. There are many things you can discuss with a therapist trained in psychology, easing the burden on your family and friends. These consultations can also be a great source of strength for the next phase of your life. The earlier you accept this support, the better, because dealing with emotional conflicts and fears also contributes to a rapid recovery and helps you regain your quality of life. An amputation combined with fear can also lead to depression. And this needs to be avoided, of course.

Discussions with other amputees

We also recommend talking to other people with a similar amputation or similar disease as your own. Talking to someone who has already gone through an amputation gives you courage – you are not alone. It’s good to hear how others are faring in a similar situation and how their life has changed (also in positive ways!). Tips are often exchanged as well – for example, on handling the prosthesis.

If you are looking to connect with other affected individuals, it is best to contact your doctors, therapists or O&P professional. They usually know where you can turn.

Reasons for amputating

What does the term “amputation” mean, and why is an amputation necessary?

An amputation is the severing of a bone in healthy tissue or the severing of a body part in a joint (disarticulation).

Such an amputation is required when a diseased body part is not expected to heal and the patient’s life is at risk as a result. Causes may include circulatory disorders, infections, accidents, cancer or a congenital limb differences.

Various Ottobock prosthetic hand users huddle in a circle and stretch their hands in the center
Amputation level

The appropriate amputation level is established

The term amputation level describes the place where a body part is amputated. In addition to other factors, the amputation level determines the suitable prosthesis in each case.

The amputation level is established by the doctor before the operation and is based on the reason for amputating. In the case of planned interventions, an O&P professional is usually consulted as well in order to establish what amputation level is the most favourable for the subsequent treatment with a prosthesis.

Cosmetic cover

Inconspicuous appearance

It’s worth knowing that any prosthesis can be covered with what is called a prosthetic glove, so hardly anyone would notice it.

For all amputation levels, a custom arm prosthesis made of silicone, for example, can restore the external appearance and, depending on the amputation level, also fulfil passive functions. These prostheses feature a low weight and easy handling.