Amputation results in the complete removal of a deformed or injured part of the body. It can be used after a catastrophic injury or when a finger or hand needs to be removed. Sometimes fingers that are removed after a traumatic injury can be reattached. However, reattachment isn't always possible. When reattachment is not a possibility, fingers are amputated to save someone's health because of a tumor or some other condition.
Amputation & Prosthesis Process
After determining that an amputation is required, a physician will remove the injured part and prepare what remains for the use of a prosthetic device. To accomplish this, one of our physicians must carefully prepare the remaining bone and its associated nerves, tendons, skin, and muscles so that the prosthesis can be worn comfortably.
Prosthesis Use & Types
The length of your remaining finger or hand, as well as how you plan to use the prosthesis and your lifestyle, will determine the type of prosthesis you will receive. To make sure the right type of prosthesis is provided, you need to let both our surgeon and the prosthetist know what activities are most important to you.
The prosthesis can extend the length of a finger that has been partially removed or can restore the ability of a thumb and finger to pinch. Prosthetic hands can permit you to hold objects steady with fingers that can bend. You may get a full arm prosthesis if your hand is removed through or above the wrist, and these devices can feature either an electrical or mechanical hand.
Some people, for personal reasons, may choose not to have a prosthesis after their surgery.
A cast is made from the part of the finger or limb that remains and matching parts from the undamaged hand, and between these two an identical replica of the whole hand can be made. The prosthetic finger or hand is formed out of flexible silicone rubber and is colored to match the individual, which makes the result look and feel like real skin. The finger or hand is held in place through suction, and the flexibility of the silicone lets the body keep its normal range of motion.
The fingernails on the prosthesis are colored individually before they are attached to the finger, so they match nearly perfectly, and can later be painted with any nail polish that can be removed with a gentle-action remover. If the prosthesis is later marred by ink, the stain can be easily removed with either soap and water or alcohol.
The silicone prosthesis, if properly cared for, can last up to five years, and its creation usually starts about three months after the swelling caused by the surgery has subsided and everything has assumed its final shape. To fully use the new prosthesis, you may need instruction and therapy.
Recovery from Amputation
There will probably be some pain for the first couple weeks after the amputation, which can be managed with pain medication. During the healing process, you will be taught how to bandage and care for the area of the amputation, and future office visits will usually be scheduled. In many cases you will be given some exercises that will build strength and keep the affected area's range of motion intact. To keep your skin mobile and less sensitive, you may be asked to massage the area of the surgery gently.
When a part of a body is lost, it typically is a very emotional experience. When that body part is as frequently used as a finger or hand, it can be even more unsettling. It will take time to become accustomed to the changes in function and appearance. Many patients find that talking about these feelings with one of our doctors and other trusted individuals can be very helpful. Your sense of loss may be very powerful, and you may want to us for a counselor to help you adapt to your new life.
The important thing to bear in mind is that, over time, you will adapt and find new ways to complete what you need to do. Resources exist to help you deal with the changes in your life, including the Amputee Association of America. While you're recovering, both physically and emotionally, these resources can help you keep up your strength. As with all other life events, patients' attitude and expectations significantly impact their quality of life. Getting and using a prosthesis is an important first step toward recovery for many patients. However, the way that they handle the emotional and physical changes that they experience, is often a far stronger predictor of adjustment after surgery.