Living with an arm amputation

After the arm amputation

After the arm amputation, your recovery and the healing of the residual limb are the main concerns. You can find tips for oedema therapy, training and residual limb care here.

Summary

What lies ahead for you after the amputation?

Directly after the operation, your recovery and the healing of the residual limb are the main concerns. Both are important so that you can begin with rehabilitation soon and a prosthesis can be fitted.

The following information is intended to prepare you for wearing a prosthesis. This makes it easier for you to use the prosthesis to best effect later on. Since we can’t address every individual case, we will only look at transhumeral amputations in the following.

Therapy begins shortly after the amputation. The wound is treated to prepare it for wearing a prosthesis. As soon as the surgical wound has healed properly, the actual prosthetic fitting and rehabilitation process can begin. In most cases, this will take up to six months.

Your own contribution becomes increasingly important in the course of therapy. Your rehabilitation team will support you. If you notice that certain measures listed here are not being implemented in your case, please ask your rehabilitation team. Your therapists can evaluate whether the measures would be useful for you.

Residual limb healing and therapy

Prepare your residual limb for wearing a prosthesis

The healing of your residual limb after the leg amputation forms the basis for the subsequent prosthetic fitting and is therefore especially important. In the hospital, the doctors treating you will continuously monitor and check the healing process, while the inpatient nursing staff looks after the daily treatment of your residual limb. In addition to wound treatment, this includes oedema and compression therapy, desensitising the skin, and scar care, among other things.

부종 치료

수술 후 절단면 주변 조직은 처음에는 일반적으로 붓기가 오릅니다. 이 부종은 수술에 대한 정상적인 반응입니다. 보통 일주일 정도 지나면 가라앉습니다. 봉합사가 제거될 때까지 느슨한 상처 드레싱만 적용되며, 이 시기에는 절단면에 압력을 가할 수 없습니다.
절단면단의 둘레를 정기적으로 측정하여 부기가 어떻게 감소하는지 평가해야 합니다. 이를 위해 항상 동일한 측정 지점을 사용해야 하며 결과는 측정 양식에 문서화해야 합니다. 이렇게 하지 않으면 결과가 서로 비교할 수 없고 붓기가 줄어들고 있는지 알 수 있는 방법이 없습니다.

또한 부종 관리를 위해 컴프레션 라이너를 추가로 사용할 수도 있습니다.

Correct positioning

Pronounced swelling of the residual limb for an extended period of time interferes with wound healing, and the time when a prosthesis can be fitted is delayed. You should assume a proper posture, even in the hospital bed, to prevent shortening and stiffening of the muscles and joints. Patients usually assume a comfortable and pain-free position at first, but experience has shown that this is not always optimal. As time progresses, the residual limb should lie in an extended position as far as possible. Permanently elevating it – for example, on a pillow – always has to be avoided, otherwise the muscles will shorten and the subsequent mobility of the residual limb is reduced.

Mobilisation

Move your residual limb several times a day. Doing this can prevent a loss of mobility in your joints. Early mobilisation is important because it activates the circulation and promotes balance. Get your therapist to show you movement exercises that are right for you at the respective time. The shoulder joint in particular has to be mobilised as early as possible; otherwise, it can become stiff. With a combination of correct positioning and movement, you can properly prepare your arm for wearing the prosthesis.

압박치료 - 초기 압박 요법


수술 후 상처 드레싱을 바르고 정기적으로 교체합니다. 압박 요법은 그 후에 시작되며 정확한 시기는 의사와 상담이 필요합니다. 압박 요법의 목적은 절단면 부종을 줄이고 후속 보철물을 위해 절단면을 준비하는 것입니다. 잔여 절단면에 대한 압박은 의지의 피팅을 최적화하는 데 도움이 됩니다. 압박은 또한 절단단의 혈액 순환을 촉진합니다. 이 과정은 통증을 줄이고 흉터 치유를 촉진합니다.

Compression bandage

A compression bandage makes it possible to readjust the pressure day by day or also in the course of a day. The pressure should be greatest at the end of the residual limb and gradually decrease towards the body. Elastic bandages secured with patches are used to wrap this bandage around the residual limb. Since this method requires some practice and experience, the bandage should either be applied by qualified personnel (Fig. 3), or the nursing staff should instruct you in the proper wrapping technique. It is important not to constrict the residual limb with the bandage, and it must not cause any pain.

Silicone liners

Silicone liners, on the other hand, are quick and easy to use. They are available in different ready-made sizes. To apply pressure as evenly as possible over the entire surface of the amputation site, it is crucial to ensure that no air is trapped at the end of the residual limb while putting on the liner! You might find that you perspire more inside the liner at first. This will correct itself after you wear it for some time. To avoid possible skin irritation, you can apply some Ottobock Derma Prevent to the skin in the area of the liner edge. Cleaning the silicone liner each time after wearing it is also very important. Please see the liner instructions for use for further information.

Further compression therapy

Once the volume of the residual limb is stable over an extended period of time – meaning the measured residual limb circumference is no longer decreasing – treatment with a prosthesis can begin. Compression should be continuously maintained until this time. Your treatment team will show you or your relatives how you can do this independently.

Training without the prosthesis

Training without the prosthesis

This preparatory training strengthens the torso musculature, including the abdomen and back, the sound arm and the legs. The residual limb should already be included in the exercises as well.

Stretching the muscles of the residual limb

The muscles and joints adjacent to the residual limb are also stretched early on. If actively moving the joints is difficult for you, passive support can be provided using a towel. Maintaining or regaining maximum mobility of your joints in all movement directions is important.

Improving the dexterity of the sound side

More or less intensive training of the sound side follows, depending on whether your dominant or non-dominant hand is affected. This training develops fine motor skills, dexterity and strength. You should practise challenging activities in particular, such as writing or brushing your teeth.

Training to develop the residual limb muscles

Before the fitting with a prosthesis, it is important to strengthen the residual limb muscles, sound arm, torso muscles and legs with preparatory training. This can improve the dexterity of the sound side in addition to maximising the mobility of your joints. This will make you that much more independent in activities of daily living later on.

Training to develop the torso muscles

Moving your upper body as much as possible is especially important after the amputation. Avoid pronounced twisting of the spine in doing so. The lack of balancing weight on one side can shift the centre of the body and therefore often change the statics of the spine as well. Exercises to strengthen the back are therefore recommended to prevent malpositions and pain.

Skin and scar care

Skin and scar care

In the hospital, the nursing staff and doctors took care of your residual limb by cleaning the wound and changing the bandages or dressings. In the rehabilitation phase, you now care for your residual limb, the scar and also your sound arm yourself. Being able to wear your prosthesis without problems requires ongoing, intensive care.

Desensitising the skin

The skin on the residual limb is often very sensitive after the amputation. You can take various steps to address this. Always use materials that are comfortable for you and work from the end of the residual limb towards the body.

Take a soft brush or a spiky massage ball, for example, and rub or tap the sensitive skin with it. This increases its resilience. You can also rub down the residual limb with a rougher towel or a washcloth.

Hygiene measures for the residual limb, such as daily washing with lukewarm water and unscented, skin-friendly soap, are very important. Ottobock care products can make cleaning easier for you.

Scar treatment

In most cases, the amputation wound closes within the first three to four weeks and forms a scar. But even if the scar appears to have healed well from the outside and only the colour of the scar tissue changes slightly from this point on, the overall scar healing process takes considerably longer. It takes about a year and a half for it to fully heal internally.

You should regularly moisturise your scar from the outset, since scar tissue has no capacity to moisturise itself. Unscented creams are recommended. This type of intensive care is important to keep the scar tissue soft and flexible as well as capable of bearing weight. This is essential in terms of being able to wear a prosthesis, because proper care can prevent pain on the residual limb due to movements in the prosthetic socket.