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Newsletter Archive

What is an above-elbow and below-elbow amputation?
Surgical removal of the arm above or below the elbow can occur due to any of the following reasons: peripheral vascular disease, trauma, infection, tumors, nerve injury, and/or congenital anomalies. The location of the injury is directly related to the amount of the limb affected. Limb length and joint salvage are directly related to the functional outcome of the extremity. For optimal function of the remaining arm (referred to as the stump), it is important that the muscle groups be positioned tightly and securely over the transected bone ends during the surgery.

What happens after the surgical procedure?
After the surgical procedure a rigid dressing is used to decrease pain and swelling at the amputation site. It is very important at this time that a life care planner is involved in your recovery process. A Life Care Planner is a person who is trained to plan the patient?s future needs which may include medication, rehabilitation, prosthetic devices, functionally adaptive tools for daily living, and vocational rehabilitation. During the patient?s hospital stay complications related to the removal of a limb can occur. These complications include hematoma(s), infections, necrosis, contractures, neuromas, phantom pain, and terminal overgrowth (in children).

Be creative ? there are choices
A person who has an amputation must be creative. They may be missing a limb (in some cases two) but there are still ways to complete activities of daily living such as eating, bathing, and dressing. A person with an amputation can learn to drive, wash dishes, and use a shovel. Creativity is the key to learn to do things for oneself. In today?s world there are also choices to be made about prosthetic devices. It is possible to do many activities, which once seemed impossible. Technology has introduced body-powered prostheses. This type of device attaches to ones body with straps and cables. As the person moves once part of their body the prosthesis moves. The body-powered prosthesis uses a hook rather than artificial fingers. This enables the person to pick up smaller objects There are also electrical prostheses. This type of devise allows muscles in the arm to operate the electric motors, thus allowing the hand to open and close. The electrical devise looks and feels more like a real arm, but they are not as resistant and will require more frequent maintenance. There are also prosthetic devices, which look natural. The tone of the skin is created to match your own skin tones. This type of devise is called a cosmetic prosthesis. The limb looks and feels like a real arm but the hands do not move. The real purpose of a cosmetic arm is to look natural. Contributed by Bonnie Rupke RN CLNC, Rupke & Associates LLC, PO Box 615, Hays, KS 67061, Phone/Fax (785) 625-4464.