Close to 2 million Americans are living with some type of amputation. Although it is viewed as a last resort after illness or injury, it is sometimes unavoidable. However, because of modern advances in surgery and prosthetic devices, amputation does not have to become a permanent handicap. In fact, many patients are able to regain the use of their damaged limbs and lead relatively normal lives.
What Is Transradial Amputation?
The radius is one of the 2 long bones that make up your forearm, running from the wrist to the elbow. Transradial amputation is the partial amputation of the arm below the elbow, at some point along the radial bone. This type of surgery leaves your elbow and most of your arm intact, which makes recovery easier and makes it more likely that you will be able to continue to use your arm even after the amputation.
Reasons for Amputation
The number one reason for transradial amputation is trauma to the hand and arm. If the bones in the arm are shattered or broken beyond repair, it is sometimes necessary to amputate so that disease does not set in and travel to the rest of the body. Men who are 20-40 years old are the most commonly affected, but also have a high rate of successful recovery.
At other times, a doctor might decide amputation is necessary because of other damage to your hand or lower arm. This damage may be caused by a tumor, frostbite, or a serious infection. In some cases, a birth defect may be amputated if it causes constant pain.
Types of Transradial Prostheses
After amputation, you will most likely be fitted with some type of prosthetic. There are 3 basic types of transradial prostheses:
- A cosmetic prosthesis is for appearance only and does not move.
- A conventional (or body-powered) prosthesis is connected to the body by a series of cables. By moving your body in different ways, it is possible to move the prosthesis and even open and close the artificial hand.
- A myoelectric prosthesis is the newest and most advanced form of transradial prosthesis. It connects an electronic hand to the muscles in your arm. As the muscles contract, electrodes send a signal to the artificial limb, causing it to move in much the same way as your real hand.
The Recovery Process
After amputation, it’s important to take good care of your arm and the incision site in order to ensure a full recovery. The site will initially be very swollen and painful and will need to be cleaned frequently to prevent a bacterial infection. You may also temporarily experience phantom pains or sensitivity. Your doctor will show you how to apply a compression wrap to the area to help reduce swelling and promote healing.
Once your arm is sufficiently healed, you can be fitted for prosthetics in Memphis, TN. During this time, your doctor will give you exercises to perform that will help strengthen your arm and torso, making it easier to adapt to your artificial limb. A physical therapist will help you learn to use your artificial arm so that you can perform your normal activities and take care of yourself with your new prosthesis.