Cosmetic covering boosts mental health in amputees

CHICAGO — Transtibial amputees can use pull-up skin covers to cope with psychological distress, Jason Highsmith, DPT, PhD, CP, FAAOP, said in his presentation at the American Academy of Orthotists and Prosthetist Annual Meeting and Scientific Symposium.

Non-cosmetically finished prostheses that are visible to others, including bulky interface materials, buttons, straps, buckles, a lack of symmetry and abrupt transitions, such as pylon to foot and socket to pylon, are main factors in mental distress.

“Amputees tend to have greater levels of both anxiety and depression…more specifically, self-consciousness in the public arena, which leads to feelings of body image vulnerability,” Highsmith said. “These feelings become self-limiting factors to the person using an artificial limb.”


Jason Highsmith

Findings showed that 29.9% of amputees experience anxiety and 13.4% experience depression, and increased self-consciousness is likely to cause high levels of negative mental health and low societal participation, which has led many amputees to cosmetic covering, Highsmith said.

According to the study, pull-up skin covers are used mainly by women and young amputees, and whereas optimal balance of durability, aesthetics and economy were key in choosing cover type, insurance was not a determinant.

More research is needed, according to Highsmith, and understanding the protective benefits of a cover may better justify both demand and reimbursement.

“Balancing these keys points would probably drive interest…perhaps change the discussion in treatment room with the patient,” he said. — by Shawn Carter

For more information:

Highsmith J. Paper F3. Presented at: American Academy of Orthotists and Prosthetists Annual Meeting. Feb. 26-March 1, 2014. Chicago.

Disclosure: Highsmith has no relevant financial disclosures.

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