When Amputation and Prosthesis are Necessary

Certain parts of the body that have become seriously injured or diseased may need to be removed by amputation. In some cases, amputated fingers can be reattached via surgery, however, this is not always possible or advisable if reattaching the fingers will cause great discomfort, severely impaired functioning or other serious complications. Prosthetics are often recommended for replacing arms, legs and other body parts that have been amputated.

The Amputation Process

To determine if surgery is required to remove a severely injured or diseased body part, a doctor will take x-rays to assess the extent of the damage. If amputation is the only option, surgery will be performed only on the damaged area with an attempt to save as much of the healthy body part as possible. The surgical site can sometimes be closed by rearranging the skin and making the bone or tendon length shorter. Skin, muscle tissue or tendons from another part of the body are sometimes needed to close the surgical area. When hand surgery is performed, the surgery site can often be closed directly with fingertip injuries. Finger or hand shape sometimes needs to be altered in cases of acute trauma to be able to fit a prosthetic device in the future.

Following amputation surgery, some pain should be expected during the recovery phase. Pain medication may be prescribed to help control pain. Doctors can advise patients on how to properly bandage and care for the surgical sites and recommend exercises to build strength and increase flexibility in these areas.

Using Prosthesis to Restore Functioning

Prosthetic limbs have helped many amputees regain much of the quality of their lives. Most people can be fitted for prosthesis three months after surgery. When hand or finger amputation is performed, a Los Angeles hand surgeon can fit a patient for a prosthetic limb that is based on the length and location of the remaining hand or fingers. Prosthetic limbs can be customized to suit the activities and functional needs of each patient. A full-arm prosthesis that has an attached electrical or mechanical hand on the end often works well for people whose hands were amputated through or above the wrist. Prosthetic limbs for people who have undergone hand or finger amputations are designed to restore finger length and make it easier to hold objects. Manufacturers can make prosthetic limbs look natural with realistic skin tones and nails that can be polished. Most silicone prosthetic limbs have a lifespan of three to five years before they need to be replaced.

Our team of board-certified plastic surgeons at LA Hand Surgeon can offer support and recommend the best prosthesis options for people who have undergone amputations.

The Impact of Smoking on the Hands

The nicotine found in cigarettes, cigars and other tobacco products can have many adverse effects on the body. In addition to harming the lungs, smoking can damage the hands and other upper extremities.

Hand Problems Caused by Smoking

People who smoke regularly may experience reduced blood circulation in the hands that could affect the fingertips. Nerve damage in the hands can also occur from smoking. Some smokers notice that the skin on their hands has formed wrinkles or shown other premature signs of aging. The nicotine in tobacco products may cause the nails to turn yellow or develop fungal infections. Tobacco use has even been linked to a condition known as Dupuytren’s contracture which causes tissue knots under the skin of the hands to form and bend the fingers permanently. Some studies have also shown evidence that smoking increases the risk of developing conditions like reflex sympathetic dystrophy and hand-arm vibration syndrome.

Smoking Worsens Existing Hand Conditions

Tobacco use can also exacerbate existing conditions of the hands and lead to further complications. Breaks and fractures in arm, wrist and hand bones often heal slower and could be prevented from healing completely. Skin wounds on these upper extremities may also have trouble healing and are more susceptible to infection in smokers. Anyone who plans to undergo surgery is advised to quit smoking in order to speed up recovery time and reduce the chances of complications while healing.

Talking to a board-certified hand and plastic surgeon at LA Hand Surgeon or another trusted professional is advised for anyone who is having trouble quitting smoking and is about to undergo surgery.

Signs of Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy

A nervous system disorder known as Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy or RSD, also known as complex regional pain syndrome or CRPS, often causes chronic pain in individuals who fall victim to it. RSD occurs when nerves in the central or peripheral nervous system become overactive and transmit frequent pain signals to the brain. This condition often results from trauma that causes nerve injuries, but some people develop RSD with no clear explanation.

Symptoms of Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy

Unusually sensitive skin accompanied by burning sensations is often one of the first signs of this condition. Throbbing pain in the legs and arms may be felt as a result of the neuropathy that is often associated with the condition. Certain parts of the body can feel warmer or cooler upon touch than other parts of the body. Some areas of the skin may look red, purple or pale or have a blotchy appearance. Skin texture may also change and become thin and shiny. Some people with RSD report sweating more than usual and experience swelling and stiffness in their affected joints. Mobility impairment can occur in the area of the body where it develops as well. Trembling, jerkiness and other unusual movements in the affected part of the body can also occur. Hair and nail growth may be affected as well.

What are the Treatment Options?

No cure currently exists for reflex sympathetic dystrophy, but certain treatments may help alleviate symptoms considerably. Sympathetic nerve blocks, steroid medications and intrathecal drug pumps that deliver pain medication into the spinal fluid have helped many people lead lives with less pain. Ibuprofen, aspirin and other over-the-counter medications can also minimize pain. Some people have also experienced relief through physical therapy, heat therapy and psychotherapy. Surgery to repair nerve damage may be required in some cases.

At La Hand Surgeon, our board-certified plastic and reconstructive hand surgeons in Beverly Hills and Los Angeles often treat individuals who have been diagnosed with RSD or CRPS. Our team of medical professionals are able to suggest treatments that are personalized to you and gives each patient the best outcome.