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Amputation

How Long Can Pain Be Expected?

11/17/2008

Question:

My husband had all of his toes amputated July 11, 2008. He had one minor setback in which the incision got an infection which required debridement for several weeks. He then had Apligrah placed over the incision, which is healing very nicely.

My question is what is the "normal" amount of time that he will experience pain? He is taking narcotics now and really wants to live without them. Each time he stops taking them (follows safe withdrawal process), he just cannot move around and become engaged in activities like he wants.

The pain just keeps him from being able to do things he wants to do. He has always been very active; he is 55 years old now and in good health except for the circulation problems most likely caused from smoking (doesn’t smoke now).

Anyway, he ends up going back to the narcotics (approximately 6 per day/ 10mg/325) that allow him to be involved in certain activities and to just basically keep up with daily chores and walking.

His doctor gladly prescribes him what he needs, but we are all seeking answers as to the "normal" length of time he should expect such discomfort. His foot is still swollen and he wears compression stockings which do help some with the pain.

The blood flow to his foot is good now; he has had many tests run to make sure there are no major or minor complications causing the pain. His doctor tells him that it could be 8 months to a year before the "phantom pain" goes away. Please give me your advice and/or take on this.

Answer:

The length of time pain remains after an amputation is variable. Some have incisional pain, some have phantom pain, and some never have phantom pain. Some resolve quickly and others will have some degree of chronic pain.

Because your husband wants to be off pain medication, I would suggest the help of a pain management specialist. Maybe there are other pain control options for him in order to eliminate the need for narcotics.

For more information:

Go to the Amputation health topic, where you can:

Response by:

Jean  E Starr, MD Jean E Starr, MD
Clinical Associate Professor of Vascular Surgery
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University