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People who’ve experienced limb loss/difference present with obvious physical challenges. What’s not so clear is how they’re affected by psychosocial factors like anxiety, depression, pain and substance abuse.
Whether the loss is congenital, a traumatic injury or a disease-related amputation, these patients are subject to intense feelings of stress and loss.1 They experience psychosocial challenges at higher rates than the general population.2 When these issues are not acknowledged, they can limit a patient’s full recovery. This possibility is magnified in cases of traumatic injury, which is the leading cause of upper limb loss.3Addressing the emotional impact of limb loss might seem like it would be a standard part of patient care, but it’s uncommon to screen upper limb prosthetic patients for psychosocial issues. The lack of screening means that for some, there are hidden obstacles that interfere with successful prosthetic rehabilitation.
Interestingly, Wellness Inventory data from Arm Dynamics patients indicates that partial hand amputees are more likely to screen positive for depression and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) than those with amputation levels proximal to the wrist. This is significant because 90 percent of upper limb amputations are at the partial hand level. 4
For these reasons, it’s important for therapists and other clinical care providers in acute and subacute settings to be aware of the increased potential for psychosocial issues among people with upper limb loss.
Suzi Phelps, Ph.D.
Clinical Psychologist - Houston, Texas