There’s no getting around it: workplace injuries that result in an amputation of some sort tend to be more costly than any other injuries we see in workers’ comp departments. And when we say costly, we mean it in every sense of the word. The physical and emotional costs to the injured party and his or her family can be immense, and the financial toll on insurers and employers is substantial. Thankfully, advances in prosthetics help amputees regain much of their physical ability and allows them to return to work sooner than once possible. Getting injured employees back on the job faster also helps insurers and employers limit overall expenditures.
Some advances in prosthetics to date include: artificial hands that feature independently articulable fingers, fully rotational wrist replacements, leg and knee replacements with intelligent microprocessors that aid with proper movement, and many others. As the prosthetic technologies improve, so does the amputee’s various ranges of motion and workplace potentialities. In many cases, employees in the machinist and various construction occupations (where many of these injuries occur) can return to their original positions, and they can do so while maintaining a high level of job performance. To reach these goals—goals that benefit both the injured employee and the employer—proper post-amputation care is essential.
Depending on the surrounding damage done to the limb when injured, most amputees heal within one to two months. But for best outcomes, specialists in orthotics and prosthetics should be brought in right away. These experts should help design a post-operation regimen that will best prepare the residual limb to be fitted with an ideal prosthetic. This regimen will typically include use of a “stump shrinker” to expel fluid and manage overall swelling. Movement of the affected limb is also essential, and specialists will be able to determine when physical therapy should begin and whether or not an interim prosthetic should be employed before fitting amputees with what will become their permanent new limb.
Choosing the right permanent prosthetic, one that will allow the amputee to regain, as much movement as possible, can be a tricky process. When working with a prosthetist, the patient will undergo several tests that assess the patient’s home-life and workplace range-of-motion demands, as well as the patient’s current post-op range of motion. Having assessed these factors, the prosthetist – along with the patient’s other medical providers – will select an appropriate prosthetic and prescribe the necessary physical therapy.
Assuming this process runs its expected course, the injured employee will be able to return to his job as a productive member of the workforce—which, of course, is what everyone hopes for. In the wake of such a workplace tragedy, helping employees recover their abilities to participate normally at home and on the job helps them return to a fulfilling life. And when done right, this process helps employers keep their workers’ comp expenditures in check.
To make sure all of this gets handled correctly and professionally, contact Designed Living. From beginning to end, we’ll coordinate all the pieces involved in catastrophic care.