Man with prosthetic leg

Trauma is a serious injury or shock to the body caused by a physical force, such as violence or an accident. The injury may be complicated by psychiatric, behavioral, and social factors, which can cause the disability to be greater than just physical.

That’s why the UPMC Rehabilitation Institute has experts to treat the trauma patient who may require rehabilitation after amputation. We’re talking with Michael Munin, MD, physiatrist and expert in amputee rehabilitation, to learn more about this process for patients.

Q: What types of amputation cases do you typically see on the rehab unit?

A: At the Rehabilitation Institute, we see many patients with lower limb amputation, often caused by trauma or diseases such as diabetes. We usually assess patients before surgical intervention, but if that’s not possible due to emergency surgery, we meet with them to talk and evaluate their condition soon after surgery while they’re recovering in the surgical ward.

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Q: What issues do you address in lower limb amputees?

A: We address things such as hip or knee contracture or tightness and ways to prevent that. We also discuss the health of the remaining leg and pain management. Our ultimate goal is trying to restore pre-amputation function or at least get patients to the highest level of function possible.

Q: How are prosthetics incorporated into patient care?

A: Prosthetists hold an important role during the rehab admission process. They fabricate the prosthetic limb and adjust as needed to maintain patient comfort with the device. Learning to trust a new limb is an important part of the early rehabilitation process. For example, someone might not feel comfortable at first putting full weight on a prosthetic leg.

Q: How would you describe rehabilitation after amputation?

A: Rehabilitation after amputation is so critical early because people haven’t thought about walking since they were toddlers. For lower limb rehabilitation, we first help the patient trust putting weight on their prosthetic limb. Then, we start to build strength along the hip and new joints as appropriate and work on range of motion. At that point, we try to normalize the walking pattern to make it as normal as possible without deviations or limps. Patients who have great success can actually walk down the street in long pants, for example, and no one would even know that they are wearing a prosthesis.

Q: Do you offer support groups of any kind?

A: We do have patient support groups, specifically the Amp Up! Support Group for amputees. Many of these groups have continued to meet virtually during COVID-19. We also offer peer-to-peer counseling, where successful patients will contact individuals with a more recent amputation to guide them through the process—to be a resource and friend.

Q: What makes your quality of care stand out?

A: Our physicians are experts in the field of amputation rehabilitation as specialists in physical medicine and rehabilitation. We also have a fantastic partnership with our surgical colleagues, our physical and occupational therapists, and the prosthetists who are the fabricators of limbs. Our connection to the University of Pittsburgh also provides the incredible resource of a prosthetics school. Altogether, we work collaboratively to provide a high level of care for our patients.

To learn more about amputation rehabilitation at the UPMC Rehabilitation Institute, please call 1-877-287-3422 or visit our website.

About The UPMC Rehabilitation Institute

As part of the largest rehabilitation network in western Pennsylvania — and one of the largest in the United States — the UPMC Rehabilitation Institute is a nationally recognized center of excellence for physical rehabilitation. Experts and support services at our inpatient rehab facilities and transitional units help patients recover from a variety of injuries and illnesses like brain and spinal cord injuries, stroke, trauma and amputation, and more. UPMC is proud to have two hospitals rated as high performing in rehabilitation by U.S. News & World Report.