Amputations are surprisingly common. Doctors in the U.S. perform about 185,000 amputations every year.
Most of these amputations result from diseases like diabetes and cancer. But roughly 45% of these procedures occur because of trauma.
Traumatic amputations have lifelong effects. You may require prosthetics to mitigate the loss of the body part. Additionally, you will need ongoing medical treatment and therapy to build up other muscles and retrain nerves. You may even see a therapist or counselor to help you cope with limb loss emotionally.
Here are the things you should understand about amputation injuries and the ways that they can impact a compensation claim.
How Do Amputation Injuries Occur?
Amputation injuries can happen in two ways:
Traumatic amputation occurs when you lose a part of your body in an accident. For example, if you lose a hand to a power tool in a construction accident, you’ve experienced a traumatic amputation.
Traumatic amputations also include cases where an accident damages a body part so badly that doctors recommend amputation. For instance, if a dog attack destroys your foot, the best course of treatment could include amputation.
It may seem contradictory to describe an amputation as non-traumatic. But this simply means that the amputation was not caused by a traumatic accident.
Disease is the most common reason for non-traumatic amputations. For example, if you contract gangrene in a limb due to medical malpractice, the cause of the amputation was a medical error, not trauma.
Similarly, suppose that exposure to a toxic pesticide gave you breast cancer. If doctors prescribe a mastectomy, the defective product caused the amputation rather than a traumatic accident.
What Are the Common Reasons for Amputations?
Doctors will often perform amputations to save your life. In some injury cases, keeping a damaged body part could cause adverse health consequences, like tissue death, infection, or cancer spread. To stop these problems, doctors may perform an amputation.
Some common reasons for amputations include:
- Burns or other irreparable tissue damage
- Cancerous tumor
- Crushed bone
- Constricted or damaged blood vessels
- Thickened or damaged nerves
These types of injuries can happen in a variety of accidents, including workplace accidents, car accidents, defective products, toxic exposures, and medical malpractice. They can also occur due to natural causes, like disease or infection.
What Are Some Examples of Amputations?
The most common amputation is leg amputation. However, almost 70% of traumatic amputations involved the upper limbs. Accidental amputations in the workplace usually involve the hands or fingers getting caught in power tools and industrial machinery. Likewise, accident victims instinctively use their hands and arms to protect themselves from fire, explosions, falling objects, dog attacks, and other violent actions.
Some common amputations include:
- Arm at the shoulder
- Arm above or through the elbow
- Arm below the elbow
- Hand above or through the wrist
- Hand below the wrist
- Leg at the hip
- Leg above or through the knee
- Leg below the knee
- Foot above or through the ankle
- Foot below the ankle
A doctor determines where to amputate by removing all the damaged tissue while preserving as much healthy tissue as possible. The less tissue the doctor amputates, the more functional the body part may be.
What Does The Amputation Procedure Look Like?
An amputation, even emergency amputations, are carefully planned procedures. When a patient has lost a body part in an accident, doctors will clean up the affected limb and make sure the remaining tissue can survive.
Some of the steps in an amputation include:
- Planning where to amputate
- Administering general anesthesia
- Cutting muscle and bone to remove the damaged tissue
- Tying off blood vessels
- Severing nerves
- Smoothing bone and shaping muscle to create a stump
- Creating skin flaps to close the amputation site
After the doctor completes the amputation, the doctor may leave the skin flaps open. This will provide access if additional tissue requires removal.
What Are Some Amputation Complications?
After an amputation, patients could experience complications and side effects, including:
Phantom limb occurs when the brain experiences sensations where the body part was removed. Some of the ways patients experience phantom limb include:
- Cold or heat
Phantom limb is not a psychological phenomenon. The nerves in the stump continue to send signals to the brain. The brain maps those signals to the place where the signals formerly originated in the missing body part.
Symptoms of phantom limb usually lessen as time goes on. The brain will eventually rewrite the map it uses for nerve signals so that it places the sensations in the correct location.
Infection can always occur after massive trauma. The risk of infection increases if the amputation injury was dirty or contaminated. Industrial accidents, car accidents, and dog attacks can lead to infection.
Doctors treat most infections by keeping the wound clean and prescribing antibiotics.
According to one study, almost 40% of amputees experience anxiety, including post-traumatic stress disorder. The same study showed that about 20% of amputees experience depression.
Some of the factors that create psychological and emotional problems after an amputation include:
- Trauma of the accident
- Job loss after the amputation
- Social discomfort about body image
- Financial pressure after the accident
- Adjustment to the amputation
Psychological trauma after an amputation can manifest as feelings of inadequacy, anger, sleep disorders, panic attacks, and suicidal thoughts.
What Compensation Can I Recover for Amputation Injuries?
The law considers amputation injuries to be among the most serious injuries that someone can experience. Amputation causes permanent disfigurement and permanent loss of the function of the amputated body part.
Under Florida’s no-fault insurance rules, people injured in a car accident must first seek compensation from their insurer. But an amputation injury almost always allows an injured person to step out of the no-fault system and file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver.
This allows the injured person to seek compensation above the amount provided under their auto insurance policy limits. It also allows the injured person to seek compensation for pain and suffering.
In the case of amputations, pain and suffering can make up a large part of the damages. An injured person can obtain compensation for the physical and mental anguish caused by the amputation injury.
Contact a Tampa Personal Injury Lawyer to Discuss Your Case
To discuss the circumstances of your amputation injury and explore your legal options for compensation, turn to legal professionals experienced in injury cases. Contact Catania & Catania, P.A. for a free consultation with a Tampa personal injury lawyer. Give us a call at (813) 222-8545 or contact our law office online to discuss your case.