A surprising number of Americans undergo amputation. About 185,000 people lose a body part every year in the U.S. As a result, the U.S. has about 2.1 million amputees.
Over half of amputations result from diseases like vascular disease, cancer, and diabetes. But a significant percentage, about 45%, result from trauma.
Here are some facts about traumatic amputation injuries and the compensation you can seek for them.
What Are the Causes of a Traumatic Amputation Injury?
Traumatic amputation injuries result from trauma rather than disease. Trauma leads to over 80,000 amputations in the U.S. every year.
About 70% of traumatic amputation injuries happen in the upper limbs. This makes sense because many traumatic amputation injuries result from trauma to the fingers, hands, and arms during workplace accidents.
Traumatic amputation injuries happen in two ways:
In a traumatic amputation, your accident severs your body part. As a result, your medical treatment is primarily directed to cleaning up the stump and closing the wound.
Surgical Amputation After Trauma
In some situations, your accident does not sever the body part. Instead, it damages the body part so severely that doctors cannot save it. Some examples of tissue damage that might lead to amputation include irreparable damage to the following:
The key factor in most decisions to amputate is whether doctors can restore blood flow to the injured area. Blood delivers oxygen and nutrients to your cells and carries away waste products.
If doctors cannot restore circulation, the cells in the limb will die. As they die, they will release toxic products into your blood. Accumulated dead tissue develops gangrene and is susceptible to infections that can kill you.
Instead of risking your life, doctors will amputate the tissue destined to die from lack of circulation.
Doctors normally treat shattered bones by reconstructing the bone with plates and screws. But doctors might recommend amputation when the fragments are too small for the doctor to reconstruct. Doctors might also recommend amputation if significant pieces of bone are missing.
Again, the key is whether doctors can restore blood flow to the damaged bone. If they cannot, doctors can improve your odds of surviving by removing the bone and amputating the injured tissue.
Muscles move your skeleton and protect your blood vessels and nerves. When a muscle is permanently damaged or lost, blood vessels and nerves are exposed and may become damaged. As a result, your circulation might suffer and your nerve endings could produce constant pain.
Doctors can relieve your symptoms by amputating the area with exposed nerves and blood vessels. This will leave you with a healthy stump.
What Types of Trauma Can Lead to an Amputation Injury?
Amputations can happen after almost any type of trauma. Some types of injuries that may require amputations include:
Burn injuries happen when a chemical reaction destroys your body’s tissue. Some types of reactions that can cause burns include:
- Caustic chemicals
Doctors may recommend amputation when burns damage blood vessels or destroy the muscle and expose nerve endings.
Crushing injuries shatter bones. They can also cause blood vessels to rupture. This tissue damage leaves the remaining tissue without structural support or circulation. As a result, doctors may amputate rather than risk gangrene and infection.
What is the Procedure to Repair an Amputation Injury?
Amputations follow a fairly set procedure. This includes traumatic amputations in which the body part has already been severed before the accident victim reaches the hospital.
An amputation procedure involves the following steps:
- Remove damaged tissue
- Smooth the bone
- Close any blood vessels and tie off any nerves
- Shape the stump for future use with a prosthesis
After surgery, the surgeon may leave the surgery site open or partially open. This allows the wound to drain and provides an opening to remove more tissue if needed. Once the tissue begins to heal, the surgeon can close the amputation site.
What Complications Can Arise from an Amputation Injury?
Amputation injuries traumatize your body. Complications frequently occur as your body deals with the loss of your body part. Some complications doctors watch for after amputation include:
Infections happen when bacteria invade your body. Between the toxic chemicals released by the bacteria and the massive immune response mounted by your body, infections can cause severe symptoms, including:
If left unchecked, an infection can spread through your blood to your entire body. This can trigger septic shock and death.
Doctors can treat infections with antibiotics.
Phantom Limb Syndrome
Phantom limb syndrome is not psychosomatic. Your brain senses real nerve signals and interprets them as coming from the missing body part. It does this because it has a map correlating nerve signals to certain body parts. This map helps the brain figure out immediately where sensory signals originate without “looking it up” every time.
Between 60% and 80% of amputees experience phantom limb syndrome. This makes phantom limb syndrome the most common complication of amputation.
Amputees often experience a range of mental and emotional issues after the amputation. These complications can include post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, and depression, with depression occurring in over 30% of amputees.
What Compensation is Available for an Amputation Injury?
Compensation for any injury caused by someone else’s negligence may cover your economic damages, such as medical costs and lost wages. You can also recover compensation for the diminishment in your quality of life.
Your compensation after an amputation injury could be substantial. You will have massive medical expenses for surgery, physical therapy, and pain medication. The loss of your body part could also deprive you of your ability to earn a living. You may need to change jobs or careers.
You could also have significant non-economic damages. Pain, mental anguish, disfigurement, reduction in enjoyment of life, and inability to engage in daily activities could all support your claim for non-economic damages.
Amputation injuries will result in permanent disabilities that can require expensive medical care and may inhibit your ability to earn a living. To learn about the compensation you might seek for your amputation injury, contact today the Shaked Law Personal Injury Lawyers for a free consultation.