Treating & Rehabilitating Amputees

Our cutting-edge program at Craig H. Neilsen Rehabilitation Hospital is unique for its focus on a continuum of amputee care and technological sophistication. Our team of highly skilled experts will work to improve your mobility and function through a variety of approaches from preserving your foot and limb health to maximizing your adapted skill sets with a prosthetic limb (artificial leg or arm). We have a broad array of advanced medical treatments, therapies, and prosthetic technologies available to you. 

We are actively creating the next generation of prosthetics through a close collaboration between University of Utah Health and the College of Engineering. Some of those prosthetics are used by our patients to achieve what was previously unimaginable.  

We believe in a holistic style of care and work hard to help every patient reach their personal, professional, and recreational goals. While your life and body may be different after amputation, we believe you can and should live well.

swimmer with amputated arm

Types of Amputation

 Our highly trained team treats amputees who have lost a:

  • leg (or part of the limb),
  • foot,
  • finger,
  • hand,
  • arm, or
  • multiple limbs.

Causes of Amputation

Some patients are born without a portion or all of their limb (congenital limb loss). However, many of our patients experience an arm, leg, or hand amputation for other reasons, which may include: 

  • diabetes,
  • blood or circulation problems,
  • bone infection,
  • cancer
  • foot deformity, and
  • trauma.

Many patients lose all or part of a limb due to an accident at work, in a car, or through military combat.

Amputee Rehabilitation: What to Expect

You will receive care from a team of expert specialists who will work closely together to achieve the best outcome for you. Our team is specially trained to help people with amputations improve their movement, strength, and endurance. We will work with you on pain management both before and after amputation and provide counseling, education, and information on community resources.

You may receive care from:

  • rehabilitation physicians,
  • physical therapists,
  • prosthetists (specialists that make artificial limbs),
  • occupational therapists,
  • surgeons,
  • nurses,
  • social workers,
  • and

Our Services & Treatments

Injection therapy — We specialize in injections for calming nerve and inflammation pain. We use injection therapy if oral medications do not sufficiently target a patient’s nerve or inflammation-related pain without adverse side effects.

Pain management We will help you manage your pain, including residual limb pain (a painful sensation on the remaining part of the limb) and phantom pain (perception of pain in a body part that no longer exists.) We will work tirelessly to diagnose the source of your pain. We believe in treating your pain with a tailored approach that combines medications, biomechanical evaluation, therapies, and psychological treatments.  

Physical therapy & occupational therapy Our physical and occupational therapists will help you strengthen your motor skills, reduce your fall risk, and train you to thrive with a prosthetic.

Prosthetic limb fitting We will help you find the most appropriate prosthetic (artificial body part) for your amputation and lifestyle depending on your activities and goals. We will work closely with prosthetists (specialists that make the artificial limb) to ensure the best possible technological solution. You may need more than one for different purposes such as walking, showering, and running. For people missing a hand or portion of their upper limb, multiple hands may be prescribed for different uses. For example, one for strength and one to move skillfully. 

Surgery Occasionally, a residual limb (the remainng portion of the limb after amputation) has a shape, skin, nerve, or bone problem that can only be resolved with surgery. In these cases, our surgeons can reconstruct the residual limb for optimal success with a prosthetic. 

Vocational counseling — We will help you navigate your return to work whether it’s back to your old job or a choosing a different career with the assistance of a case manager. We will also advocate on your behalf with worker’s compensation programs.

Weight loss and nutrition education — We may recommend weight loss programs and suggest seeing a dietitian or, if needed, a weight loss surgeon to increase the success of your rehabilitation and prosthetic use.

Find a Rehabilitation Specialist

Inpatient Admission Criteria

If you'd like to be admitted into our inpatient program for amputees, each prospective patient will meet with one of our liaisons. Based on the information received a pre-admission assessment will be completed, and if needed, sent to your insurance company to request authorization for admission.

Each patient is different, and the Neilsen Rehabilitation Hospital takes those differences into account when considering admission. In general, we assess the following admission criteria when looking for patients who are:

  • medically stable,
  • require close supervision by a rehabilitation physician,
  • require 24-hour specialized rehabilitation nursing,
  • capable of actively participating in a minimum of three hours of therapy per day, at least five days a week, and
  • require an interdisciplinary team approach.

Once your insurance has approved your admission, our liaison will work with the referring hospital and case manager to arrange transportation and obtain your medical records for continuity of care.

Nurse pushes patient in wheelchair

 Occupational Therapy & Physical Therapy for Amputees

Your rehabilitation therapy will begin while you’re in the hospital. We will start with an exercise program that strengthens your muscles, decreases swelling, and improves your flexibility. We will also strengthen your body to prepare you for your prosthesis (artificial limb). Your rehabilitation will continue long after you leave for home. Our goal is to help you achieve greater independence and accomplish daily living skills without overusing or straining your muscles.

Physical Therapy for Above- & Below-Knee Prosthetics

For lower limb prosthetics (above- and below-knee), our physical therapists will work with you to:

  • strengthen your core and buttock muscles through bridges, side planks, and other leg exercises;
  • maintain proper hip and knee flexibility;
  • improve your balance;
  • walk smoothly with ease; and
  • increase your range of motion.

Occupational Therapy for Upper Limb Prosthetics

Before you receive your upper limb prosthetic, our occupational therapists will work with you on:

  • skin care,
  • how to place the sock or protective liner over the residual (remaining) limb, and
  • different kinds of adaptive strengthening exercises in preparation for the weight of the prosthetic.

Once you receive your upper limb prosthetic, our occupational therapists will work with you on practicing different functions of the device including:

  • opening and closing,
  • eating,
  • carrying, and
  • different grasps and pinches.
runner with an amputated leg stretching

Adaptive Equipment for Amputees

Our experts are committed to engineering solutions for our patients to help them live to their fullest potential. Our team takes advantage of the most technologically advanced devices while our researchers are discovering the next generation of prosthetics.

ZeroG — The Craig H. Neilsen Rehabiltation Hospital has the longest ZeroG track system in the nation. It is a robotic body-weight support system connected to an overhead track that is designed to help patients practice walking with no fear of falling.  

Eye-gaze technology — We will teach you how to control phones, tablets, computers and other devices with your eyes, which allows you digital independence and particiapti oin , social media,  video games, E-sports, social media, and surf the internet. 

Mobility garage — Patients can bring their vehicle to the hospital and experiment with adaptive controls that help them return to driving independently.

3D printing — We 3D print unique prosthetic hands to provide low-cost alternatives for patients who cannot afford standard options. We also create unique tools and attachments to assist amputee patients with daily living activities.

Prosthetic Limbs

Our experts will help you find the best and most appropriate prosthesis (artificial body part) for you — whether you are missing a limb or have multiple amputations. We collaborate with prosthetists (specialists that make artificial limbs) and engineers to give you customized solutions that will help you adapt to your everyday life. In keeping with that, we will talk with you about your work, hobbies, recreation and overall health to help determine which prosthetic serves your needs best.

Cost of Prosthetics

The cost of a prosthetic depends on at least three factors:

  • material,
  • technological abilities, and
  • when it was developed.

Most insurance companies will cover at least a portion of the device. If cost is an issue, we will work with you to find durable alternatives that fit your budget.

Prosthetic Fitting and Training

A prosthetist will use a variety of techniques from handcrafted custom molds to 3D scanning to find the device that fits your body best. This will take place about one month to six weeks after your amputation surgery or whenever your skin is closed and healed.

After your surgery, the residual (remaining) limb will change shape until its fully healed. This may initially require numerous changes to the alignment or pressure of your prosthetic limb every few months for the best fit and function.

We also recommend good hygiene to keep the liner worn over your residual limb clean. We will also teach you how to properly clean and protect your skin since it cannot be too wet or too dry underneath the pro. We will also educate you on how to prevent muscle injuries in the healthy parts of your body opposite of your amputation.

How Long Will My Prosthetic Limb Last?

Many prosthetics last for several years before needing to be replaced, especially once your residual (remaining) limb heals. The longevity of your prosthesis largely depends on how frequently and how roughly you use it.  However, it is normal to wear out parts of your prosthetic and need new devices over time.

Outpatient Services

Once you leave the hospital, continuing rehabilitation therapy is essential to helping you return to as many of your normal activities as possible and restore your confidence. You may be able to take advantage of our outpatient Amputatee Program through our Sugar House Therapy Services, depending on your insurance coverage and where you live. We will provide:

  • occupational and physical therapy,
  • assistance with choosing a prosthetic, and
  • training to help you adjust to your new prosthetic and use it comfortably.

We will help you improve your balance and skills and work on tasks needed to function during everyday life. We use some of the most advanced equipment in the region such as:

  • Overhead track systems that help you improve your balance while wearing a harness to support you.
  • Anti-gravity treadmills that will let you practice walking without supporting the full weight of your body. 

Driving After an Amputation

Losing a limb does not mean that you will not be able to drive again. Our Drive Rehab Program offers an adapted vehicle specifically for patients with leg or foot amputations. A special pedal system allows you to press the break without using your feet or legs. Our occupational therapists will help assess when you are ready to return to the road.

Long-Term Care

After an amputation and receiving a prosthetic limb, some patients continue to take advantage of our services regularly while others may not need care for a period of years. This is typically determined by the kind of amputation you have and other health challenges.

Amputee Support Groups

We offer a monthly support group for amputees, their family, and caregivers. 

Date & Time
Fourth Tuesday of every month (except July) at 7pm

Location
Sugar House Health Center
1280 East Stringham Avenue,
Salt Lake City, UT 84106

For more information, contact Spencer Thompson at spencer.thompson@hsc.utah.edu to confirm dates and times of upcoming meetings.

Meet with Our Amputee Program Specialists

For questions or information on how to meet with our specialists or participate in our inpatient programs at the Neilsen Rehabilitation Hospital, please call our referral line at 801-646-8000. Our referral specialist will work with your current provider to obtain necessary medical records and verify your insurance benefits for coverage.

For outpatient physician clinic questions, call 801-581-2267. For information about Sugar House Therapy Services, call 801-581-2221.