Why Today's Amputees Often Amputate More

More sophisticated prosthetics sometimes require a sacrifice
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted May 19, 2012 2:20 PM CDT
Why Today's Amputees Often Amputate More
This Aug. 28, 2011 file photo shows South Africa's Oscar Pistorius competing in a heat of the men's 400-meter at the World Athletics Championships in Daegu, South Korea.   (AP Photo/Kevin Frayer, Filoe)

Increasingly, amputees who have already lost limbs are going to their doctors to ask them to remove more. The choice, which the New York Times calls "once unthinkable," comes as artificial limbs are becoming vastly more sophisticated. For people like Ann Kornhauser, whose prosthetic foot left her in constant discomfort, a more high-tech model can offer relief—but, in Kornhauser's case and many others, it would only fit if she got her left leg amputated below the knee. "I knew that I would have a life" with the new leg, even though it meant losing more, she says. "I was able to walk again."

"The medical community is focused completely on salvaging limbs," says an Army major who had an additional nine inches removed after first losing his foot to a land mine. "There’s actually a disadvantage to having extra limb length, because you can’t fit correctly into prosthetic devices." Today's bionic prosthetics include features ranging from realistic fleshlike surfaces, pedicured toes, and adjustable ankles to microprocessors and motion sensors. An example of their sophistication: Double amputee and runner Oscar Pistorius has been accused of having an unfair advantage due to his J-shaped carbon fiber blades. Click for the Times' full story. (Read more amputees stories.)

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