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What is phantom limb pain?

Phantom pain is pain that is felt in a missing or amputated limb and is typically more noticeable when a cosmesis prosthesis is not being worn. Phantom pain is usually the worst right after an amputation, then tends to lessen with time. Phantom sensations such as tingling, burning, or itching in the missing limb have also been reported. Some studies suggest that phantom pain may even be connected to dissatisfaction with body image or improper functioning of the prosthesis.
David A. Hanscom, MD
Spine Surgery
Phantom limb pain occurs in patients who require an amputation, often because blood supply to the limb has been compromised by vascular disease. Common causes are diabetes or atherosclerosis, when there’s not enough blood to sustain a limb’s viability. Prior to the amputation, lack of oxygen causes the limb to become very painful. After the limb is removed, up to 60% of patients feel the pain as though the limb were still there. Almost 40% of sufferers characterize the pain as anywhere from distressing to even more severe than before.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.