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What are Amputees?

Leg amputees can be fitted for a prosthetic leg that allows for a relatively normal range of motion.
An amputee racing in a wheelchair.
Amputations are usually a last resort that's necessary to save one's life.
Article Details
  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 10 October 2014
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Amputees are individuals who have endured the removal of some extremity of the body, such as an arm or leg. In most cases, the loss is due either to illness or some type of traumatic accident. The amputation often takes place as a means of preserving the life of the individual, at the cost of the body extremity.

Disease is easily one of the most common reasons for undergoing some type of amputation. People with advanced cases of diabetes have an increased chance of eventually losing some portion of the body to the condition. It is not unusual for amputees with this disease to lose first a few toes, then a foot, and then still later an entire leg. In performing the surgical procedure, the goal is to protect the life of the individual when gangrene or some other infection has set up in the infected body part.

Cancer is another example of a health condition that sometimes calls for the removal of a limb. This is often the case when the bones have been affected and other forms of treatment do not force the cancer into remission. As with diabetics, amputees who lose a limb to cancer normally undergo the procedure as a means of protecting the rest of the body from the disease.

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Not all amputees lose limbs due to disease. People who live through plane crashes or automobile accidents may find that an arm or leg has been crushed. When current medical practices are unable to repair the damage, the crushed limb is usually amputated.

In some cultures, removing all or part of an extremity is a form of punishment for crimes committed. For example, an individual found guilty of theft may pay for the crime by having one or both hands amputated. While this practice has disappeared from most cultures, there are still places around the world where criminals become amputees as part of their restitution to society.

Amputees today have more options than in generations past. Leg amputees can often be fitted with prosthetic legs that allow a relatively normal range of motion. While current technology does not produce artificial legs that are of the same quality as human legs, these devices often allow the leg amputee to walk without the necessity for a cane or walker.

In like manner, arm amputees can often be fitted today with devices that mimic the movements and general appearance of an arm and hand. Many of these types of prosthetics allow the arm amputee to bend the arm at the elbow with very little effort. Current technology also has produced artificial hands that can perform some simple tasks, such as gripping a coffee mug. While these devices do not allow the same range of motion as a natural arm and hand, they do make it easier for amputees to function in today's world.

For many amputees, the loss of a limb or other body extremity is physically and emotionally devastating. It is not unusual for psychological counseling to occur at the same time the individual is physically healing from the trauma, and continue through the fitting of any prosthetics.

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