Walter Reed doctors react to Boston bombing amputations

WASHINGTON – Many of the most seriously wounded in the Boston bombing endured a loss of a limb or limbs. That type of injury is no stranger to Walter Reed Army National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, where they’ve treated tens of thousands of amputees.

“Our hearts and prayers go out to all of the victims in Boston and certainly empathize with the challenges that they face as well as what their medical teams face,” says retired Colonel Dr. Paul Pasquina, chair of physical medicine to rehab at Walter Reed in Bethesda.

He says treatment after a limb loss is complex.

“A blast injury often times leaves both visible and invisible wounds,” he says.

There can be vision and hearing loss, brain injuries, internal injuries as well as the loss of a limb. As you can imagine, “it’s very, very difficult for anyone in any circumstance to adjust to a disability,” he says.

Pasquina says pain control and almost immediate rehabilitation is part of the process.

“Aggressive treatment needs to be in place in terms of treating their pain whether it’s residual or phantom pain,” he says.

Plus, he says the focus is no longer on urgent care first and rehabilitation second. He says mental and physical rehab must be an integral role evening during the surgical care part of the process.

While Pasquina says individual patients will recover at their own pace, and recovery always varies, he says people who’ve suffered a limb loss should be encouraged by what wounded warriors have been able to achieve.

“We have great insight as to what achievements can be made by examples that are living among us today,” Pasquina says.

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