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The psychological impact of amputation

On Behalf of | Feb 15, 2022 | Personal Injury

A car accident can leave people with catastrophic injuries. In some cases, doctors may need to amputate a limb to ensure a patient’s survival. However, amputation can have serious, long-term effects on people.

Patients can experience several side effects after they lose a limb. According to Frontiers in Psychology, some people develop neurological conditions because of their amputation. They may experience anxiety, nervousness and depression. Patients sometimes feel like they have no control over their lives and they worry about the future. Additionally, some people experience anger when they think about some of the physical tasks they can no longer perform.

Phantom pain

For many patients, one of the most uncomfortable side effects is phantom pains. The Mayo Clinic says that these pains are sensations that people feel from a missing limb. Some people feel a stabbing or burning pain in the place where they used to have an arm or a leg. They could begin to experience phantom sensations within a few weeks or a few months of the amputation. While some people feel these pains on a regular basis, others only experience them occasionally.

Causes of psychological symptoms

Doctors suspect that patients experience psychological symptoms for many reasons. One factor is that the nervous system connects the entire body to the brain. After amputation, the brain may search for signals from the missing limb. When it cannot detect them, the brain may send out pain signals to compensate.

Additionally, the nervous system may rewire itself so that it still receives the signals it needs. People who lose part of their lower arm, for example, may find that they experience phantom pains when someone touches their shoulder. This could occur because the brain has rerouted signals from the lower arm to the upper arm.

These lingering side effects of an amputation can have a significant impact on people for a long time after their accident.