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Studies seek to improve everyday life after injury, amputation

From the impact of prosthetics on energy and strength to its influence on daily tasks, experts share research being done on musculoskeletal injuries at the Military Health System Research Symposium in Kissimmee, Florida. (Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Adrian Cadiz) From the impact of prosthetics on energy and strength to its influence on daily tasks, experts share research being done on musculoskeletal injuries at the Military Health System Research Symposium in Kissimmee, Florida. (Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Adrian Cadiz)

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Dealing with the ups and downs after an amputation or injury can be difficult and frustrating. From the effects of prosthetics on the energy and strength of a person to the influence on daily tasks, researchers look for answers that lead to solutions. During this week’s Military Health System Research Symposium in Kissimmee, Florida, experts share insight into the growing area of research studying different aspects of everyday life after an injury.

Dr. Brittney Mazzone, a research physical therapist with the Extremity Trauma and Amputation Center of Excellence, or EACE, and the Naval Medical Center San Diego, studied tobacco and alcohol use among 120 service members, all males with an average age of 26, one year before and one year after a below-knee amputation.

“We did have significant findings for both tobacco and alcohol use,” said Mazzone, while speaking at the Military Health System Research Symposium Aug. 28. For tobacco use, 42.7 percent reported using the product before the procedure and the number increased to 57.5 after. Alcohol use was reported in 50.4 percent of subjects before the amputation, whereas the number increased to 68.6 percent after. While this study was small in sample size, the study will expand from 120 to 2,000 service members, with an additional focus on different types of amputations.

“It’s already known that these habits can be detrimental to one’s health,” said Mazzone, who stressed that tobacco use can lead to complications after an amputation, including failure to heal. Alcohol can increase risk for musculoskeletal conditions, heart and liver diseases, and diabetes. It can also lead to complications after an amputation, including poor wound healing, infection, sepsis, pneumonia, bleeding, longer hospital stays, and possibly admission into an intensive care unit, said Mazzone. Having this kind of information can show where service members and veterans may need additional support to lead healthier lives. Programs, such as UcanQuit2 and That Guy are available to help service members and veterans quit tobacco and alcohol use.

Researchers also reported on other studies related to recovery from amputation or limb injury. Jill Cancio, an occupational therapist with EACE, studied the validity of a hand-function exercise for patients who have a hand injury. The study involved subjects doing a test including about 20 everyday tasks, such as putting pills into a pill box, folding clothes, and packing a suitcase, with their dominant or non-dominant hand.

“Hand functions affect all aspects of one’s life,” said Cancio. “Understanding individual hand function can assist therapists with the process of determining relevant treatment approaches and realistic treatment outcomes.”

Research suggests that the dominant and non-dominant hands each function differently during task performance, said Cancio. Because of these differences, it’s important for rehabilitation professionals to separately assess their abilities. The study shows a ‘suitcase-packing activity’ has validity in recognizing and diagnosing functional abilities after a hand injury. Future research can use this information to focus on more specific groups, such as patients with amputations, said Cancio.

The Military Health System Research Symposium brings together medical providers, researchers, and senior leaders to share research and health care advancements. The symposium highlights research for combat casualty care, operational medicine, clinical and rehabilitative medicine, and infectious diseases.

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