Phantom Limb Pain

Tuesday, 11 November 2014 18:05

Today is Remembrance Day, and time to reflect and pay silent respect to the many servicemen and women who fought for our country. This year also marks the centenary of the First World War, and an article by the BBC highlights the plight of many soldiers who lost limbs during the conflict and the terrible pain they had to endure afterwards.

Whilst the Great War did facilitate significant improvements in specialist amputation surgery and more lightweight prostheses, one hundred years on patients are still suffering the same effects of "phantom limb pain".

This type of pain affects around 60% of patients who lose a limb – and this includes the entire spectrum (from losing a tip of a finger to losing an entire leg at the hip). This type of pain is extremely debilitating, and stems from the damage to nerves during amputation surgery. Patients feel as though the lost limb is still there, and is still the source of pain.

Phantom pain is often overlooked by surgeons, as their role concludes following the operation. However, Pain Clinics and physiotherapists often struggle to rehabilitate amputees due to the severe levels of pain they experience. It also makes fitting a prosthesis and mobilisation extremely difficult and delays a patient's recovery.

In our practice as specialist clinical negligence solicitors, we see many clients who have had to undergo amputations due to medical errors. A common occurrence is loss of toes or feet if a patient develops diabetic foot ulcers which are not managed properly. We also see pressure ulcers, which arise when a patient is immobile in bed for prolonged periods and nurses fail to implement a proper turning regime. Serious infections of bone (osteomyelitis / necrosis) can also lead to amputations, and can start out as something so benign as a skin wound or fracture which is not managed properly.

If you or someone you know has been affected by the loss of a limb following medical treatment, call one of our specialist solicitors today for free advice.

Author: Katie Nairne

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