Phantom limb syndrome is feeling certain sensations in that limb which has already been amputated. There could be a feeling in the limb area like it was still with the body. This condition arises because the brain continues receiving messages from nerves that were sent while limb was there.
What exactly causes phantom limb syndrome isn’t known. It is perceived by physicians that the sensations are caused as the brain attempts to reorganize the signals. The brain needs to rewire so that it can adjust to the changes that happens to the body.
This syndrome is more predominant in adults than in children. Other reasons that increase the possibilities of sensations recurring are pain in pre-amputation, some sort of blood clot in the area that was amputated. It could also be infection while pre-amputation, previous damage in the spinal cord or adjoining nerves supplying blood to the affected limb. There are good loads of possibilities that this condition is happening due to an unexpected, sudden amputation, maybe due to an accident rather than a planned surgery. The kind of anaesthesia that was administered while amputation happened could also result in this condition.
The symptoms of a phantom pain would include, the pain shooting up within the first week after the amputation has happened, even though it could be delayed. This pain could come and go or be continuous. Some symptoms could affect the part of limb that’s completely far from the body, like the foot of the leg that is amputated. This pain could be shooting, cramping, pins and needles, burning, throbbing, crushing, or even stabbing.
Though the real cause or root of the pain is unclear, physicians say the pain could come from the brain and spinal cord. While scanning images, positron emission tomography (PET) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), portions of the patient’s brain that has neurological connectivity to the nerves of the limb amputated shows activity in an event when the person feels this phantom pain.
According to many experts, phantom pain may be partly because the area responds to mixed signals that brain transmits. After the amputation happens, the areas of the brain and spinal cord lose all input from the missing limb while adjusting to the detachment in various unpredictable ways. As a result, there is a trigger in the body that something isn’t quite right.
Studies have also shown that once amputation is done, the brain may map once again that part of the patient’s sensory circuit to another part of the patient’s body. To put it simply, as the amputated area is not able to receive further sensory information, this information gets referred somewhere else, maybe instead of the missing limb to the feet or neck that is still present. Hence, when this foot is touched, it seems as though the missing limb is also being touched. As this is again another version of the sensory wires tangled, this could result in pain.
There are a number of other factors that are believed contributing to this phantom pain, like nerve endings that are damaged, scar tissue where the amputation happened and physical memory that pre-amputation pain occurred in the this area.
There are a number of expert spine, brain and nervous system physicians who attend to our patients at Cura. They take extreme care in diagnosing the cause behind the cause of the pain and try to find a proper remedy for it.
There are many modes of treatment that are administered to the patient depending on the condition and its severity. There is also enough care provided to patient after the condition has been taken care of.
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