Beyond the body image: a qualitative study on how adults experience lower limb amputation

Clin Rehabil. 2012 Feb;26(2):180-91. doi: 10.1177/0269215511410731. Epub 2011 Sep 9.


Objective: To explore adults' experiences of lower limb amputation, focusing on the changes in self-identity related to the impairment.

Design: A cross-sectional and qualitative study, using semi-structured interviews. Interviews were transcribed, coded and analysed by two independent researchers.

Setting: A rehabilitation medicine service from a general public hospital.

Participants: A convenience sample of 42 patients with lower limb amputation performed after the age of 18 and followed up in the physical medicine and rehabilitation department of a general hospital.

Main outcome measures: A semi-structured interview, addressing three core areas: the emotional impact of amputation; the adjustment process; and the relation with the external resources.

Results: Eight themes emerged from interviews: reactions and feelings about becoming amputee; changes in own life; problems in well-being; relation with the prosthesis; self-perceptions; aims related to the rehabilitation and future plans; relation with the rehabilitation; and perceived social support. These results supported a theoretical model for the self-identity changes related to limb loss.

Conclusions: The self-identity changes after a lower limb amputation appear beyond the patient's body image and functioning, affecting the patient's awareness of the impairment, biographical self and any future projections.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Amputation, Surgical / methods*
  • Amputation, Surgical / rehabilitation
  • Amputees / psychology*
  • Amputees / rehabilitation*
  • Artificial Limbs / psychology
  • Body Image*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Lower Extremity / surgery*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Portugal
  • Prosthesis Fitting
  • Qualitative Research
  • Quality of Life
  • Self Concept
  • Sex Factors
  • Young Adult