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It is estimated that there are 350,000 thousand amputees living in the United States with approximatly 135,000 new amputations occuring each year. The number of amputee world wide is not currently tracted by any organization. Here in the United states the most common causes of amputation of the lower extremity are disease (70%), trauma (22%) congenital or birth defects (4%) and tumors (4%). Upper extremity amputation is ussually due to trauma or birth defect with disease not as great of a contributing factor. The cause of amputation vary greatly from country to country. In countries with recemt history of warfare and civil unrest the amputation due to trauma and mine accidents is much greater.

Ampuation of a limb can effect almost all aspects of an indiviguals life and in order to fully recover from limb loss all of these areas need to be addressed. Issues of simple mobility and self care are the initial problems that most amputees face. Participation in a comprehensive rehabilitation program will helpthe amputee recover thier function. Be sure to find a program that specializes in amputation rehabilitation and has good experience in treating amputation. A team approach with physicians therapist, nurses, social workers and psychologists will provide the most well rounded program.

Problems with body image and difficulty coping with lifestyle changes are experienced in one way or another by most amputees. People with amputations frequently go through a grieving period similiar to dealing with the death of a close relation. These feelings are normal but if they persist they can effect recovery and talking to a trained psychologist or psychiatrist with experience treating people with disability can be very helpful.

As an indivigual begins to return to their previous lifestyle questions about sexuality can arise again many of these uncertainties are normal and should be discussed with your psychologist or rehabilitation specialist.

Finally, return to both recreational activities and employment are all a part of recovering from an amputation. Many times simple modifications to recreation equipment can allow a person to return to a previously enjoyed sport or hobby. Many prosthetic manufacturer produce components specifically designed for sports. Be sure to discuss all of your leisure interests with your prosthetist and your doctor so all of you can plan appropriatley for your prosthhesis

As far as return to work, employers vary in there willingness to modify a work environment to accommodate people with disability. Your therapists should be able to perform a job site evaluation and make recommendation to help with your work area. Some people however will not be able to return to thier previous jobs.

Your states Office of Vocational Rehabilitation should be able to assist you in job retraining. Please contact your local office. Their telephone number can be found in the Guide to Human Services section of your local White and Yellow Pages. The number may be listed under the Health - Disabled section.

Once you are past the initial rehabilitation stage you will have ongoing contact with both the physician directing your care and a prosthetist. It is very important that you are comfortable with both of these people and you feel confident with the care that they are providing you. Be proactive in choosing both your rehabilitation professionals and your prosthetic company. They should work with you in making decisions about prosthetic devices.

Remember that amputation does not have to end your life. There are people with limb loss in every walk of life. They have a wide variety of professions from congressmen to electricians. They participate in sports from mountain climbing to golf. There are many clubs and organizations that provide information so ask your rehabilitation specialist about support groups and sports organizations in yur area.


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