"The psychological challenges for amputees is daunting. More can be done, but in my mind, the key to success resides in enabling the amputee to seamlessly engage in activities of daily living," says David Hankin.
Hankin is CEO of the Alfred Mann Foundation - a medical research foundation based in California that works to create advanced medical technologies for people with debilitating medical conditions with the aim of improving their health and overall quality of life.
One area the foundation focuses on is limb loss - a condition that approximately 1.7 million Americans are living with.
According to the Amputee Coalition, around 185,000 amputations occur in the US every year - of which 97% are lower limb.
The main causes of limb loss are vascular disease - including diabetes and peripheral arterial disease - and trauma. A very small number of amputations are caused by cancer.
Physical and psychological difficulties
Individuals living with limb loss can experience difficulties physically and mentally.
Not only is limb loss a debilitating condition in itself, it can cause other conditions that impact a person's general health. For example, individuals with lower limb loss often have to use much more energy in order to be able to move around on different floor surfaces and terrain, and to travel distances that those with intact limbs would not find an issue.
"The additional energy and the wear and tear on other parts of the body create a host of medical problems for the amputee," says Hankin.
In a psychological sense, Hankin says that many amputees can experience feelings of inadequacy when it comes to engaging in day-to-day tasks. For example, something as simple as taking money out of a wallet may take much longer, which can cause embarrassment when the individual is standing in a grocery line.
When it comes to rehabilitation for amputees, prosthetic limbs are the first port of call. But Hankin says that rejection of artificial limbs - particularly upper limbs - is high. This is because most upper limb prosthetic devices do not have advanced functions that allow the amputee to effectively carry out daily activities.
"As a result, many end up in a closet or a drawer rather than affixed to the amputee," says Hankin, adding:
"There is a feeling among some amputees that not nearly enough has been or is being done to improve the technologies available to them and that there is no hope."
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