An amputation is one of the most catastrophic injuries you can suffer. You could spend weeks in the hospital and incur enormous medical bills. You will have permanent disabilities and disfigurement from your injuries. You may even have mental and emotional difficulties afterward.
Amputation injuries can result from almost any accident. Even a minor accident can cause enough tissue damage to make amputation necessary. In fact, about 185,000 amputations happen in the United States every year. In total, over two million Americans have lost a limb to amputation.
What Are Some Causes of Amputations?
Amputations can result from diseases or trauma. Roughly 68% of amputations in the U.S. result from diseases like vascular illnesses, diabetes, infections, and cancer. This means that accidents cost over 59,000 accident victims a limb or other body part.
Such amputations can range from the tip of a finger or toe to an entire arm or leg. The most common causes of traumatic amputations include the following:
Every cell in your body needs oxygen for cell metabolism. Without oxygen, your cells cannot produce the energy they need to live. Your blood picks up oxygen molecules in your lungs and carries them throughout your body. When an accident damages your blood vessels, oxygenated blood cannot reach your cells.
Doctors can often repair blood vessels by grafting a healthy blood vessel to replace a damaged one. But when you suffer extensive vascular damage, doctors might not be able to restore circulation to the injured body part. They will need to amputate the tissue that cannot survive.
These kinds of injuries can happen when your body part gets mauled in a construction accident involving tools or machines. For example, a circular saw accident could tear apart blood vessels, leaving doctors no choice but to amputate.
Bones provide structural support for your body. They also give your muscles the leverage to move your body when they contract and relax.
When a bone shatters into three or more pieces, doctors must reconstruct the bone surgically. They must assemble all of the pieces and secure them in place with plates and screws.
If the pieces are too small or missing, the doctor might not be able to rebuild the bone. Sometimes, doctors can take a bone from elsewhere in the body or from a cadaver and use it to replace the missing piece. A doctor might need to amputate if they cannot graft a donor bone into the gap.
Nerves carry motor signals from the brain to the muscles. They also carry sensory signals from nerve endings in the skin back to the brain. When nerves get torn, they cannot carry signals. As a result, the area below the injury will suffer paralysis and loss of sensation.
Nerve damage by itself might not be enough of a reason to amputate. People can live with paralyzed limbs. But when combined with vascular or skeletal damage, nerve damage may give a doctor additional reason to remove a limb rather than trying to repair it.
What Types of Amputation Injuries Can Occur?
Amputations take one of two forms depending on how they occur.
A traumatic amputation happens when an accident tears your body part from your body. Suppose that you were involved in a work accident in which your finger got caught in a heavy door. If the door severed your finger, you suffered a traumatic amputation.
Doctors can sometimes reattach a body part under the right circumstances. Reattachment may happen if the body part was not:
- Detached for too long
- Contaminated with hazardous chemicals
If doctors cannot reattach the body part and restore circulation, they will leave it detached.
A surgical amputation happens when a doctor or emergency responder must remove your body part to save your life. In some cases, a surgical amputation occurs so emergency responders can free you from where you were trapped.
Suppose your car was crushed in an accident and your foot was trapped in the car. Emergency responders might need to amputate your foot to free you from the vehicle and transport you to the hospital.
Other times, the surgical amputation will happen after you reach the hospital. The doctor will examine you and determine whether the injured body part can be saved.
If it cannot be saved, they will:
- Determine where the damaged tissue ends
- Amputate the body part, removing all damaged tissue
- Prepare a viable stump
If performed correctly, the surgery will leave you with a stump that can work with a prosthetic device.
After surgery, your doctor will need to decide whether to close the wound. In some cases, they will leave the wound open so that they can monitor it for infection and remove additional tissue if necessary. In other cases, they will close the wound to reduce the risk of infection.
What Are Some Potential Complications from an Amputation Injury?
Most amputations lead to further complications, including the following:
Phantom limb syndrome produces sensations, such as pain, that seem to emanate from the amputated body part. This is one of the most common complications from an amputation, affecting roughly 80% of amputees.
Doctors have two theories for why phantom limb syndrome happens. One theory states that the nerves that used to connect to the amputated limb remain in the stump. When they pick up sensations, they mistakenly get associated with the missing limb.
The other theory states that the map that tells the brain where nerves connect gets remapped incorrectly after the amputation. It sends and receives signals from the other parts of the body and interprets those as coming from the missing limb.
Approximately 30% of amputees suffer from depression. This chemical imbalance often results from:
- Grief for the lost limb
- Fear of the future without a limb
- Anguish about appearing disfigured
- Anxiety about the cost of medical treatment
These emotions take time to resolve. Therapy and medication might help, but sometimes nothing helps, and the amputee develops chronic depression.
How Can You Obtain Compensation for an Amputation Injury in Texas?
You can pursue compensation when you suffer an amputation injury due to someone else’s actions. In most cases, you will need to prove negligence. This means that the at-fault party failed to exercise reasonable care.