A new study has indicated that more than half of patients recovering from stroke may in fact experience phantom limb sensations - the vivid illusion that the amputated arm or leg is still present.
Dr Daniel Antoniello from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, New York, together with colleagues from the Universities of Colorado and Florida, and New York University, interviewed 50 post-stroke patients, with the aim of establishing how common phantom limbs were and also determining the characteristics of such experiences.
They found 27 of the interviewees to have experienced phantom limb sensations, many on a daily basis; they would move to adjust their position in bed, only to discover that their arm was underneath them, instead of beside them; others would feel their toes or fingers wiggling, even though they were not; some were even able to control their phantom limb, e.g., extending the arm to scratch an itch, which would of course not relieve the itch.
Antoniello suggests that a possible reason for the phenomenon being underreported is that "patients fear being labeled 'crazy' and are less likely to report these sensations than other symptoms."
The study has been published in the October 2010 issue of Elsevier's Cortex.