Amputations happen more often than you might believe. About 185,000 people lose body parts each year. In total, about 2.1 million Americans have a missing limb. These missing limbs range from a fingertip to an entire leg or arm.
Amputations have catastrophic consequences. By definition, you become disfigured after losing a body part. And even if your doctors fit you with a prosthetic, you will permanently lose some functions.
The Anatomy of Your Limbs
Your limbs have a combination of structures that give them strength and movement. Bones sit at the center of your limbs. Bone cells create a matrix from minerals like calcium and phosphorus. These minerals provide bones with a rigid structure to support the soft tissues.
Soft tissues attach to your bones. Ligaments hold your skeleton together at the joints. Tendons anchor muscles to your skeleton. And cartilage lines your joints. These soft tissues handle your body’s movement.
Your skeleton and soft tissues require oxygen for cell metabolism. This process allows your body to generate proteins to build and repair tissues. Your blood delivers the oxygen your cells need to survive and multiply.
Blood travels through the arteries to your organs and tissues. When oxygen-rich blood reaches your tissues, the red blood cells release an oxygen molecule and pick up a carbon dioxide molecule. Oxygen-depleted blood returns to your heart and lungs through veins.
Nerves connect your organs and muscles to your brain. They deliver the control signals that move your muscles. They also carry sensory signals from the nerve endings in your skin to your brain.
What Types of Amputation Injuries Can Happen?
Amputations happen in two ways:
Surgical amputations happen when you suffer a severe injury, and your doctor amputates your body part because they cannot save it. For example, if your finger gets crushed in an amusement park accident, your doctor may not have time to save it before the tissues die. As a result, your doctor will recommend amputating the finger rather than risking your life.
During a surgical amputation, your doctor will identify the border between the healthy and damaged tissues. The doctor will plan the amputation to preserve as much healthy tissue as possible while removing all the damaged tissue.
Your amputation may occur at a joint or between joints. The benefit of amputating at a joint is that the doctor only needs to disarticulate the body part at the joint instead of sawing through bone tissue. The disadvantage is that any prosthesis will need to replace the joint to provide the same range of motion.
The surgeon will cut through the tissue, sealing blood vessels and nerves as they go along. They will smooth the bone so that it has no sharp edges that might irritate your soft tissues. Your doctor will also fashion a flap out of healthy tissue to cover the stump.
The doctor may leave the amputation site open or suture it closed. You have a lower risk of infection when the doctor closes the site. But doctors sometimes leave it open so they can easily remove additional tissue if necessary.
Traumatic amputations happen when an accident tears a body part from your body. This kind of injury can happen in a few ways. An accident can lacerate your body, slicing away a body part. Your hand could get caught between two colliding boats during a boat accident. The impact can sever your hand from your arm.
Amputations can also result from pulling forces. If your sleeve gets caught in a factory machine, it could tear your arm out of its socket.
Doctors can sometimes reattach a traumatically amputated body part. This surgery, called replantation, requires your doctor to reconnect the blood vessels damaged in the accident. They must also graft any injured nerves to restore sensation and motor control. Finally, they will provide structural support by reconnecting muscles and reconstructing bones.
Replantation is not always possible.
The success of replantation surgery depends on many factors, such as:
- The condition of the amputated part and the wound
- Contamination of the wound by microorganisms, dirt, or chemicals
- The time since the amputation injury occurred
Generally, you have a better chance of successful replantation if you reach the hospital quickly and have a cleanly severed body part.
What Can Cause an Amputation Injury?
The most common causes of amputations include diseases like diabetes, vascular disease, and cancer. In industrialized countries like the U.S., where patients have access to advanced medicine, 68% of amputations result from diseases. The remaining 32% result from traumatic injuries.
Trauma can amputate body parts. It can also cause tissue damage that leads to surgical amputations. Some injuries that may require amputation include the following:
Tissues decompose when they die. Decomposition involves the breaking down of tissues by body processes and microorganisms. When tissues in your body decompose, you will develop gangrene. If the tissues remain attached to the body, you will become very sick before dying.
Thus, suppose that you suffer severe arm abrasions from scraping on the road in a motorcycle accident. Even after cleaning the wounds, they may still contain bacteria from the road surface. If the wound becomes infected, the tissues may die, and your doctors may recommend amputation.
Doctors can repair some damage to blood vessels. But they do not always have the time or ability to repair all the damage you might suffer. For example, suppose your leg was mauled in a dog attack. Doctors might be unable to repair the shredded and torn arteries and veins. As a result, they may recommend amputation of the leg.
A shattered bone happens when you fracture a bone into three or more pieces. Since at least one piece freely floats after you shatter a bone, doctors must perform reconstructive surgery. During this operation, doctors fit the pieces together like a puzzle and secure them with plates and screws.
Sometimes, reconstructive surgery is impossible due to the damage your bone suffered. In these cases, doctors might perform an amputation.
What Complications Can Result From Amputations?
Amputations produce a wide range of complications, including:
- Phantom limb pain
When Can I Get Compensation For an Amputation Injury?
If you suffer an amputation injury due to a work-related accident, you can pursue workers’ compensation benefits. Workers’ comp pays benefits for almost all on-the-job injuries regardless of fault.
You can file a personal injury claim if someone else’s actions caused your injury. If you prove liability, you can recover compensation for medical costs, wage losses, pain and suffering, and other damages.
Amputations can permanently disable you from performing your work and home tasks. Contact Payer Personal Injury Lawyers at (407) 648-1510 for a free consultation to learn about your right to compensation after suffering an amputation injury.