Phantom limb, phantom pain and stump pain in amputees during the first 6 months following limb amputation

Pain. 1983 Nov;17(3):243-256. doi: 10.1016/0304-3959(83)90097-0.


The incidence and clinical picture of non-painful and painful phantom limb sensations as well as stump pain was studied in 58 patients 8 days and 6 months after limb amputation. The incidence of non-painful phantom limb, phantom pain and stump pain 8 days after surgery was 84, 72 and 57%, respectively. Six months after amputation the corresponding figures were 90, 67 and 22%, respectively. Kinaesthetic sensations (feeling of length, volume or other spatial sensation of the affected limb) were present in 85% of the patients with phantom limb both immediately after surgery and 6 months later. However, 30% noticed a clear shortening of the phantom during the follow-up period; this was usually among patients with no phantom pain. Phantom pain was significantly more frequent in patients with pain in the limb the day before amputation than in those without preoperative limb pain. Of the 67% having some phantom pain at the latest interview 50% reported that pains were decreasing. Four patients (8%), however, reported that phantom pains were worse 6 months after amputation than originally. During the follow-up period the localization of phantom pains shifted from a proximal and distal distribution to a more distal localization. While knifelike, sticking phantom pains were most common immediately after surgery, squeezing or burning types of phantom pain were usually reported later in the course. Possible mechanisms for the present findings either in periphery, spinal cord or in the brain are discussed.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Amputation Stumps*
  • Arm / innervation
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Kinesthesis / physiology
  • Leg / innervation
  • Male
  • Muscle Contraction
  • Pain, Postoperative / etiology*
  • Phantom Limb / diagnosis*
  • Sensation / physiology