Losing a limb will affect the body in many ways. These side effects can have a dramatic impact on an amputee’s life, affecting mobility and function to such an extent that they cannot walk or perform certain activities. Contracture is one such complication associated with amputation.
Amputation contractures happen when the soft tissue closest to the point of amputation is shortened, tightening and contracting. Structural changes in this tissue, which can include the skin, muscles, ligaments, and tendons, can severely limit mobility, or even freeze a joint in place. A person with a below-the-knee amputation, for example, could experience contracture in the knee joint. This could affect their ability to use a prosthetic limb because the knee would not be able to straighten completely and bend easily. Their overall mobility could be significantly impacted as a result.
Contractures can also affect other areas of the body, even those that are not closest to the amputation. Contracture at the back or hip can occur when a patient is bedridden or has any type of lower limb or extremity amputation. Contracture at the shoulder or elbow can happen in bedridden patients and those with upper limb or extremity amputations.
What Causes Contractures?
Amputation contractures can be caused by damage to the joint area or by inactivity. A patient confined to a hospital bed or kept in a certain position is more likely to develop contractures. Having the knees propped up by pillows, for example, could cause contracture at the knee or hips. Some studies have indicated that normal joint motion is best maintained with at least five to six hours of movement a day. This may seem like a lot, but this does not have to be strenuous and could take place at any time of the day. The good news is that amputation contractures can be prevented with the proper approach and effort by medical practitioners and patients.
Preventing Amputation Contractures
Because amputation contractures are extremely difficult to remedy once they develop, prevention is key. Unfortunately, many people who lose limbs are seriously injured and may be confined to a bed for some time. Even in these situations, the early involvement of an occupational or physical therapist can help to prevent contractures from developing in the first place. Stretching and joint exercises should begin as soon as possible after surgery, in addition to ensuring proper positioning of the body and joints.
One of the best approaches is to encourage a patient to move the joint throughout the day, just as they would during normal activity. If the patient is bedridden, even moving them from the bed to a wheelchair and adjusting their body position can help prevent contractures. The physical therapist will instruct the patient on what to do and when to do it, and the patient will have the responsibility of keeping up with the recommended exercises. Loved ones can help the patient by offering encouragement and help when exercises get tough. An experienced therapist can think of creative ways for a patient to get enough activity in, even in a limited setting.
Can You Treat Amputation Contractures?
Unfortunately, it’s extremely difficult and sometimes impossible to stretch out contractures once they’ve developed. It will take a lot of consistent, hard work and it may take a considerable amount of time. There are different methods, using manual stretching, heat, ultrasound, splints, or casts to encourage the affected tissue to stretch out again, and some can be quite uncomfortable. If you already have amputation contractures, it’s important to talk to your doctor and therapist about what methods may work best for you.
Talk to an Amputation Attorney Today
Amputation contractures are just one aspect of dealing with the loss of a limb. At Arnold & Itkin, we represent clients across the country who have been injured in catastrophic accidents. When dealing with life-changing injuries like amputation, people know they can turn to our attorneys for caring support and aggressive representation. We fight for the injured because we believe in helping them get answers and recover compensation that will turn their lives around for the better.
Our amputation lawyers are known nationwide for our results. In fact, we secured a record-setting $44 million verdict for an amputee in a case involving a construction superintendent who lost his leg after a crane collapse. We fought for the recovery he needed—and deserved. To find out how we can help you, call (888) 493-1629 today.