Researchers conducted a pilot study to explore whether the combination of using a residual limb cover to eliminate electromagnetic fields and a mirror therapy exercise program facilitates healing and decreases pain for individuals with lower-limb vascular amputations. The results suggest that the combined treatment may improve outcomes for this patient population and should be investigated further.
The cross-sectional repeated measures design compared two groups based on the time of amputation. The 11 participants in the acute group began treatment within 48 hours of their amputations. Those who had surgery at least six weeks before starting the study comprised the chronic group of five participants. Effectiveness was measured by physical factors (e.g., edema and temperature) and the perception of phantom limb pain (e.g., intensity, frequency, and bothersomeness) at pretreatment, four weeks post-treatment, and maintenance after eight weeks (an interval of four weeks of no treatment).
For participants in the acute group, edema, temperature, frequency, and bothersomeness demonstrated significant differences; for the participants in the chronic group, temperature, pain intensity, frequency, and bothersomeness were significantly different. The researchers discovered the unanticipated result that the incisions on the residual limbs of the individuals in the acute cohort were sufficiently healed to begin prosthetic fitting a month earlier than the typical protocol-a decrease from 12 weeks to eight weeks-and that wearing tolerance increased from zero to two hours to eight to 12 hours for the individuals in the chronic cohort after completion of this treatment intervention.
The study was published in the October issue of the Journal of Prosthetics and Orthotics.