Living as an amputee - Information that we hope you will find useful following amputation surgery
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Home > Personal Injury > Serious injuries > Amputations > Living as an Amputee

Amputations - Living as an Amputee

Amputations as a result of accident or injury

An amputation is the loss or removal of a limb or part of a limb. The amputation of a limb, such as a leg or an arm, is often necessary following an injury which has either partially removed the limb (known as a traumatic amputation), or has damaged the limb to the extent that it is impossible to save it. It may also be necessary if the limb is a danger to the life of the patient, such as may be the case with gangrene. Occasionally it is an “optional” procedure.

Military amputees are to receive the most up-to-date prosthetic limbs

Members of the armed forces who have lost lower limbs whilst serving their country in Iraq and Afghanistan will finally have access to the most up-to-date prosthetic limbs.

The limbs, known as “bionic legs”, contain micro-processor technology and according to the 'Help for Heroes' charity will help to “transform lives”. Bryn and Emma Parry, Co-Founders of Help for Heroes which aims to support wounded soldiers and their families said: “[This] announcement is the beginning, and we will be working hard to ensure men and women who have served their country get the best support, for life”.
More about Military amputees are to receive the most up-to-date prosthetic limbs

More personal injury news

Please select one of the links below to read more about how an amputation might affect you and your family.

Rehabilitation after an amputation

When it is decided that you no longer need the care provided in a surgical ward, it is often the case that you will be transferred to another ward or hospital for a period of rehabilitation. You may receive treatment such as physiotherapy, including balance techniques if you have lost a leg, or desensitisation to help you become familiar with touching your wound.

This time will also allow you, your family, and your care professionals to assess your on-going care requirements, and carry out any modifications that need to be made to your home or transport to allow you to live as independently as possible, particularly if you live alone. In some cases of course, your home will not be suitable for alteration and a move to more appropriate accommodation will be necessary.

Aids and equipment will be assessed and made available before you are discharged from hospital. Although you may wish to be provided with a prosthetic limb, it can take some time for this to be assessed and made available and you may need a wheelchair in the meantime, which may require further alterations to your home, even if temporary, including access to the property inside and out.

Your own general state of health will also be a factor in how long your rehabilitation may take and, during that time, you will probably meet with a dietician who will provide advice on making sure you eat a healthy diet. This should include nutrition to provide the necessary additional energy that is required if you are planning to use a prosthetic limb, particularly a lower limb, and ensures the continued health of the other limb to take the excess strain to compensate for your amputated limb.

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Prosthetic limb vs cosmetic limb

During your pre-operative assessment, you should be introduced to a prosthetist (a specialist in prosthetic limbs) who will be able to tell you more about the type of prosthetic limbs (or other devices) that are available and how well a particular prosthetic limb will function.

Some amputees will find that they are not suitable for a prosthetic limb, which takes a considerable amount of additional energy (up to 80% more) to use it to the best effect. If for example, you suffer from a heart condition, the decision may be made that it would be more appropriate for you to use a cosmetic limb.

If you are found to be a suitable candidate for a prosthetic limb, you will be assessed to decide on the most appropriate type for you. Factors that will influence the type of prosthetic limb recommended for you include:

Although in some situations, it is possible for a prosthetic limb to provide you with both your physical desires and the functionality you need, it is possible that your needs may be so diverse that you will need to decide between the physical and functional.

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Going home after an amputation

Following your discharge by the hospital, you may have to attend follow-up appointments to discuss your situation at home, how well you are coping with the arrangements, and whether you have identified further help, support or equipment that you now realise are needed. Often it is only when you are faced with doing things for yourself, that you can fully appreciate the help that you may need, and even tying your shoelaces can become difficult. Do not hesitate to ask for all the help you need and to which you are entitled.

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Maintaining your health after an amputation

It is also vital that you avoid injury or damage to the remaining leg. If you are diabetic and your amputation is a result of the effects of this condition, those conditions may also be present in the remaining leg and you should take all steps necessary to ensure you do not ultimately require another amputation.

Poorly fitting footwear can lead to poor blood circulation and conditions requiring amputation, and care of your feet, including your nails, is critical to avoid future problems.

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Body Image as an amputee

Once you have dealt with the practical side of living your life after amputation, the whole area of relationships, and your emotional well-being may cause problems. One of the main issues for amputees in returning to normal relationships is that of body image. From when we are small, and throughout our lives, it is natural to have thoughts and feelings about body image, including shape, size and other physical attributes such as hair, teeth and skin, in fact, all our visual assets.

Although everyone's body image changes naturally as we age, an amputation creates an immediate and significant change. As an amputee, you not only have to deal with changes in how our body works and feels but also how it looks.

It is important to remember that you are still the same person inside that you were before the amputation, a whole person who just happens to have a missing body part. Try to focus on new ways to do things that you enjoyed before, even if you need to be extra creative to find solutions, and focus on what the future holds rather than what you have lost. Your own body image is likely to become more positive once you are comfortable with your prosthesis and you will know this is starting to happen when you feel naked without it!

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Relationships after an amputation

Relationships, no matter what kind, almost always have a positive influence on our physical and emotional lives. Whilst some relationships are merely friendships, other relationships involve close emotional bonds and without either type of relationship, we can feel lonely or depressed, with no one to talk to or distract us from our problems and pain.

Amputees often avoid relationships because of their negative thoughts on their body image, believing other people will see only the amputation and reject them. However, studies prove that this is not the case. Stay involved with people you already know and share feelings for, but it may also help to join an amputee support group to learn from others who have shared your experience but now live full and happy lives.

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Employment after an amputation

There is no reason why returning to work should not be a real option for many amputees. It will depend upon both the nature of your amputation, and the type of work you previously did. If you wish to return to your previous type of work, the Occupational Therapist, either one you have been involved with through the hospital or at your place of work, will be able to help you understand whether a return will be possible, or whether you should consider an alternative type of work.

Where possible your employer should make changes to your work environment to allow you to continue in your previous employment. These may include relocating you to a ground floor position, making a lift available, or providing you with aids such as a desktop PC rather than a laptop. It may also involve a change in hours, perhaps reduced hours or more sociable hours if you previously worked shifts which are no longer an option. For example, if you used public transport which is no longer accessible to you. The options may be many and varied and it may take some time to assess your full needs.

However, these adjustments may not be possible either for practical reasons related to your abilities, or because your employer is unable to accommodate your requirements due to cost, size or nature of his organisation. If this is the case, your Occupational Therapist will help you identify other types of work for which you could be suitable.

Whatever the possibilities are for future employment, they may result in lower earnings and this is another area that needs to be fully assessed before the final calculation is made in your claim for compensation.

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Personal injury news stories

Clear Answers' specialist personal injury solicitors deal with a large number of all types of personal injury and accident compensation claims each year, many resulting in serious injuries such as head and brain injuries as well as amputations. Details of some of these successful compensation claims can be found in our Personal Injury News Section, which is updated regularly.

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Support for amputees and their families

During your rehabilitation, you should be provided with details of your nearest support group, who normally meet every month. These groups generally consist of both health professionals and others who are living with an amputation, all of whom will be able to provide you with information, advice and support to help you not only cope with your amputation but to look forward to living a full and happy life.

British Limbless Ex-Servicemen's Association

185-187 High Road
Chadwell Heath
Essex RM6 6NA
Tel: 020 9590 1124
Fax: 020 8599 2932

British Red Cross (National Branch)

- or use telephone directory
to find your local branch.
9 Grosvenor Crescent
London SW1X 7EJ
Tel: 020 7235 5454

Citizen's Advice Bureau (National Number)

Tel: 0845 050 5152

Disabled Living Foundation (DLF)

380-384 Harrow Road
London W9 2HU
Tel: 020 7289 6111

Department for Work and Pensions Benefit Enquiry Line

Freephone:: 0800 882200
Textphone: 0800 24 33 55

DVLA (Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency)

Swansea SA6 7JL
Tel: 0870 240 0009 (driver enquiries)
Fax: 01792 783071

Mobility Centre - Queen Elizabeth's Foundation

(for car adaptions)
Leatherhead Court
Surrey KT22 0BN
Tel: 01372 841100
Fax: 01372 844657

Disability Sport

Disability Sports Events
Belle Vue Centre
Pink Bank Lane
M12 5GL
Tel: 0161 953 2499

Mobilise ( formerly Disabled Drivers Association)

NR16 1EX
Telephone:01508 489449

Motability Operations

City Gate House
22 Southwark Bridge Road
Telephone: 0845 456 4566 (8.30am till 5.30pm Monday to Friday)

Independent Living Fund

Equinox House
Island Business Quarter
City Link
Telephone: 0845 601 8815 or 0115 945 0700

The Mobility Information Service

20 Burton Close
Tel: 01743 340269

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Making a claim for compensation following an amputation

If you or a member of your family has suffered an amputation, either in an accident or as the result of clinical negligence, it is vital that you seek specialist advice as quickly as possible. Clear Answers' specialist serious injury solicitors can give guidance and assistance on whether it is possible to make a claim for compensation.

Our team of expert personal injury lawyers is waiting to help you, happy to explain the claims process in plain English, and to answer any questions you may have regarding your compensation claim.

If you would like Clear Answers to help you receive the compensation to which you are entitled, please telephone us now on 0800 783 9019 or complete our online compensation claim form and one of our representatives will contact you as soon as possible to discuss the circumstances of your accident or injury.

Please go to our Costs and Risks section for more detailed information on these and how Clear Answers will handle your claim and funding.

Alternative funding arrangements may apply in Northern Ireland due to differing procedures and Law Society regulations.

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