CONTROLLING PAIN: Managing phantom limb pain

November 2005 
Volume 35  Number 11
Pages 17 - 17
  PDF Version Available!


QUESTION: My patient, who had a right below-the-knee amputation 2 days ago, says he can feel intermittent burning pain in his nonexistent right ankle. I know he's experiencing phantom limb pain, but what's the best way to treat it?

ANSWER: Phantom limb pain is a poorly understood type of neuropathic pain. After an amputation, 60% to 80% of patients report intermittent phantom limb pain or nonpainful phantom sensation.

Occurring intermittently, phantom pain is described by patients as shooting, burning, throbbing, stabbing, or squeezing. It tends to be more common and severe in the immediate postoperative period and may recur less frequently in the months following surgery as the patient recovers and begins rehabilitation.

What's behind the pain?

The physiologic cause of phantom pain, which is sympathetically mediated, may be related to the cortical reorganization that occurs in response to an injury. In some cases, these cortical ...

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