Amputation injuries happen more frequently than you might believe. About 185,000 amputations happen in the U.S. every year. In total, about 2 million Americans have lost a body part to amputation.
While these amputations traumatized many victims, many caused only minor disabilities. For example, some amputations involve a toe or a fingertip.
Here is an overview of the causes and effects of amputation injuries and the compensation you can seek for one.
What Causes an Amputation Injury?
Over half of all amputations result from diseases. Conditions like diabetes, vascular disease, and infections can damage a limb so severely that doctors recommend amputation. Without amputation, the damaged limb can endanger the patient’s life.
But about 45% of amputations happen due to accidents. These amputations fall into two broad categories:
Traumatic amputations happen when the force of an accident removes a limb from your body. This can happen when the force of the accident pulls the limb from your body. You could lose a finger when it gets trapped in a machine in a workplace accident.
It can also happen when an accident involves a sharp edge that slices a limb from your body. For example, a construction accident with a sharp tool could result in the loss of a hand.
When an accident causes severe damage to a body part, your doctor may determine that leaving the limb attached will pose a danger to your life. Instead of risking your life, doctors may recommend surgical removal of the damaged part.
Specifically, doctors may determine that the blood vessels in the damaged part have become damaged beyond repair. Without blood flow, your cells will die. Gangrene will set in as the dead cells in your limb decompose.
Some of the injuries that can lead to a surgical amputation include:
You can experience crushing injuries in auto accidents if the roof collapses or the engine gets pushed through the firewall.
Crushing injuries can shatter your bones. They can also stretch or tear nerves and compress blood vessels. If doctors cannot restore circulation or rebuild the shattered bone, they may recommend amputation.
Dog Bite Injuries
Severe dog bites often involve mauling. The pressure and tearing involved in a mauling can sever nerves and tear blood vessels. The lack of circulation resulting from severe soft tissue damage may lead to a surgical amputation.
Doctors may perform a surgical amputation after a severe burn injury. Chemical or combustion burns can irreversibly damage the soft tissue. These burns can leave you without any nerve function or circulation in the damaged limb. As a result, doctors may amputate the burned limb.
What Are the Amputation Injury Procedures?
Whether you have suffered a traumatic amputation or doctors need to perform a surgical amputation, the surgery will typically follow a set procedure:
Identify Healthy Tissue
Doctors will determine the extent of the damage to your body part. They will plan the amputation to save as much healthy tissue as possible while removing all of the damaged tissue.
Remove Damaged Tissue
Surgeons will remove the damaged tissue and leave a flap to cover the stump. The damaged tissue will include all of the tissue that lacks the bone structure, circulation, or nerve function to fully heal.
Shape the Stump
The doctors will shape the bone to remove any sharp edges. They will also close off the nerves and blood vessels leading to the removed limb. They will form the muscle and skin so that you will have a strong stump for a prosthetic device.
After shaping the stump, doctors may leave the amputation site open or closed. If doctors close the wound, they reduce the risk of infection. If they leave the site open, they can easily remove more tissue if necessary.
The doctors will dress the wound and monitor you for infection and other complications from the surgical amputation.
What Are Some Amputation Injury Complications?
Amputation injuries are some of the most traumatic and catastrophic injuries a person can endure. Losing a limb can cause physical and mental symptoms beyond the amputation.
An infection happens when microorganisms enter the body. They multiply and destroy your body’s cells.
In response, your body triggers a powerful immune response. The injured area swells. The swelling traps the microorganisms by reducing circulation to the injury. The body also increases its temperature. Microorganisms cannot withstand fever temperatures.
Between the damage caused by the microorganisms and the body’s immune response, an infection can make you very sick or even kill you.
About 80% of people with amputations experience phantom sensations. These sensations can range from pain to tingling that appears to come from the amputated body part.
The brain does not imagine phantom pain. Instead, it experiences real pain sensations, typically from the stump, but misidentifies the source of the pain.
The brain uses a map to identify the source of touch sensations. When you lose a limb, the brain’s map becomes outdated, and it can misattribute real sensations to the wrong areas of your body.
Many amputation injury patients suffer from depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after an amputation. One study estimates that over 30% of amputees experience depression.
Some sources of the depression include:
- Grief over the lost body part
- Diminished self-esteem
- Dependency on others to perform tasks
- Anxiety about body image
- Social isolation
Doctors and therapists can treat mental trauma with counseling and medication.
What Compensation Can You Get for an Amputation Injury?
You could seek significant compensation if your amputation injury resulted from someone else’s negligence. Your economic losses will include your medical bills, lost income, and diminished earning capacity. The loss of a limb will result in expensive medical treatment and therapy. It will also affect your ability to earn a living.
Your non-economic losses include your diminished quality of life due to pain, mental anguish, inconvenience, and reduced enjoyment of life. An amputation can significantly affect all aspects of your life, from physical comfort to mental well-being.
Losing a limb may cause permanent disabilities that prevent you from working or participating in the activities you enjoy. You may even need assistance to meet your daily needs.