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Traumatic Injury and Amputation at UPMC

Trauma is a serious injury or shock to the body caused by a blunt or sharp force, such as a car wreck.

The injury may cause mental trauma, as well as behavioral changes. This means the effects can be more than physical.

Contact the UPMC Rehabilitation Institute

Contact the UPMC Rehabilitation Institute to learn more about inpatient rehab.

What Can Cause Traumatic Injuries?

Some common causes of trauma include:

  • Motor vehicle accidents.
  • Falls.
  • Drowning.
  • Gunshots.
  • Fires and burns.
  • Stabbing.
  • Other physical assaults.
  • Floods, earthquakes, or other natural disasters.

Traumatic Injuries We Treat

Some of the traumatic injuries we treat at the UPMC Rehabilitation Institute include:

What Are the Signs of Brain Trauma?

Go to the emergency room right away if you have any of the following signs after a blow to the head:

  • Loss of consciousness.
  • A headache, especially one that doesn't get better with medicine.
  • Seizures.
  • Confusion.
  • Not responding to efforts to wake up when sleeping.
  • Nausea or vomiting.
  • Vision changes.
  • The pupils of one or both eyes looking larger.
  • Clear fluids coming out of the nose or ears.

Rehab and Recovery After Limb Loss

Although the average hospital stay for a major amputation is just a week, rehab can take much longer.

Along with the emotional toll of limb loss, you may also need to relearn basic skills, such as:

  • Dressing.
  • Walking.
  • Eating.

How long does amputation rehab take?

At the UPMC Rehabilitation Institute, physical therapy starts within a day or two of surgery and focuses on improving strength and movement.

Rehab can last many months to a year based on factors such as:

  • The extent of the amputation.
  • Whether rehab involves one or more limbs.
  • Your goals and response to rehab.

In some cases, you may need rehab for many years to relearn how to perform daily tasks.

What's involved with therapy after limb loss?

Before prosthetics, our physical therapists help you strengthen the muscles in your leg or arm through:

  • Exercise programs.
  • Educational coaching.
  • Passive and assisted movements.
  • Massage.
  • Cutting-edge technologies, including gaming programs and specialized treadmills.

After we attach the prosthetic, we'll:

  • Make sure you're using it in a way that maximizes comfort and reduces strain.
  • Help you adjust. For instance, learning to walk with a prosthetic takes coaching and practice. We'll help you balance and shift your weight when walking.
  • Support you in meeting your rehab goals.

An occupational therapist will help you with self-care needs and daily tasks, including:

  • Household chores.
  • Bathing.
  • Dressing.
  • Toilet and tub transfers.
  • Donning/doffing your prosthesis.

Adapting to life as an amputee can be emotionally tough and may cause anxiety.

Our rehab team will:

  • Counsel and support you.
  • Teach you what's possible.
  • Connect you to other amputees.

Advanced Technology to Help You Heal After Traumatic Injury

UPMC Rehabilitation Institute is one of the leading inpatient rehabilitation programs in the U.S. We offer state-of-the-art technology and complete rehab services to help you recover after a traumatic injury.

Our Robotics and Gaming Center can help you regain mobility and skills to live a more independent life after your rehab stay.

The center's technologies include:

  • AlterG®: An anti-gravity treadmill that helps you learn to walk after limb loss.
  • Andago®: A mobile robot that supports you when learning to walk.
  • Armeo®: A program that trains you to use a prosthetic arm or hand.
  • Bioness integrated therapy system (BITS): A touchscreen program that challenges vision, cognitive ability, and balance.
  • Dynavision D2: A light-up board that helps you hone key physical skills.
  • ErigoPro: A robotic tilt table that helps you stand.
  • GameCycle®: A hand-operated exercise bike to improve arm strength.
  • MusicGlove: An engaging game to boost memory and motivation.
  • Nintendo Wii®: Video games that offer fun physical challenges.

Amp Up! Support Group

Amp Up!:

  • Is a monthly meeting for current and former UPMC patients, amputees, prosthetists, and other members of the Pittsburgh and Erie prosthetics communities.
  • Offers support and resources beyond the hospital setting to improve community re-entry after limb loss.
  • Strives to enhance quality of life by promoting a healthier, happier well-being through seamless health care services.


Meetings are typically held on the third Tuesday of each month from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at UPMC Mercy.

Learn more and register for Amp Up! in Pittsburgh.

Questions? Email Tracie Nguyen at or call 412-232-4070.


Meetings are typically held on the fourth Thursday of the even months (February, April, June, August, October, December) from 3 to 4 p.m. at Encompass Rehab.

Learn more and register for Amp Up! in Erie.

Questions? Email Amanda Dailey at or call 814-877-7078.

Contact the UPMC Rehabilitation Institute

Call 1-877-287-3422 with questions or to learn more about inpatient rehab.

Our traumatic injury and amputation experts: