Amputations are surprisingly common in the U.S. Over 2 million Americans have lost a body part to amputation. About half of these amputations resulted from disease, while the other half resulted from trauma.
All these amputees have some level of disability or disfigurement. Amputations can cause minor effects, such as losing a fingertip or toe. Or they can have a major impact on your life, such as when you lose a limb.
Here are some facts about amputation injuries and the compensation you can seek for them.
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What Causes an Amputation Injury?
Amputations often result from diseases like vascular disease, diabetes, and cancer. But 45% of amputations happen during or after an accident. The amputations that result from accidents take two primary forms:
Your accident could involve injuries so traumatic that they tear or sever a body part from your body. Sometimes, surgeons can reattach a severed body part.
But the likelihood of reattachment depends on:
- Which body part got severed
- Contamination of the part or stump
- Time since the injury
- Damage to the body part
- Viability of the stump
A clean cut through a finger in a restaurant workplace accident might result in a relatively uncontaminated finger and stump. If you can reach a surgeon within a few hours, the surgeon might successfully reattach the finger.
Conversely, surgeons might not reattach a finger that was crushed and torn by heavy equipment in a construction accident. The finger tissue might have sustained too much damage to survive reattachment. Also, the finger might have been contaminated by oil, dirt, or other construction site debris.
Surgical amputation happens when your doctor removes your body part due to the damage it sustained in an accident. For body tissue to survive, doctors must have some hope of restoring blood circulation to the damaged body part. If doctors cannot restore circulation, the cells will die within six to eight hours.
Once the tissue begins to die, gangrene sets in. This decomposition of your dead cells can make you extremely sick and cause other tissue to die. By amputating a severely damaged body part, doctors can save your life.
Some injuries that might justify surgical amputation include:
A tool or machine can cut through enough tissue to damage the blood vessels and nerves. If doctors cannot repair the blood vessels and restore circulation to the limb, they may recommend amputation.
A crushing injury can damage the blood vessels and nerves in the crushed part of the body. The crushed muscle and other soft tissue can begin to die. As those cells die, they release toxic compounds that enter your bloodstream.
Crushing injuries can also shatter bones. A comminuted fracture happens when a bone breaks into three or more pieces.
To repair the bone, doctors must assemble the pieces and secure them with plates and screws. They must also make sure the bone fragments have a blood supply to heal. If they cannot repair the bone and restore circulation, they may amputate to save the rest of the limb.
In some situations, the initial injury might not justify amputation. But if the injured area gets infected, doctors might amputate it to save the patient’s life.
What Are Some Amputation Injury Complications?
When doctors amputate a body part, they follow a fixed procedure. They begin by removing the unviable tissue. This includes any tissue damaged beyond repair or tissue that cannot receive blood flow due to vascular damage.
Once doctors remove the tissue, they cut and shape the bone. They want a smooth surface that will not irritate the stump when a patient gets fitted for a prosthesis.
Doctors form a flap to cover the bone but often will not suture the flap. Leaving the wound open will help them treat any infection in the stump and remove additional tissue if needed. Once the stump begins to heal, doctors can close the wound.
Amputations can lead to serious complications, including:
Depression and Anxiety
Amputation takes a toll on the accident victim’s mental and emotional health. Over 30% of amputees experience depression. Amputees also experience anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Doctors can treat these problems with therapy and medication. Amputees need time to grieve the loss of their limbs and process the trauma of their accidents.
Infections happen when microorganisms enter the body through an open wound. During the accident and subsequent treatment, a wound can become infected. The microorganisms destroy cells. In response, the immune system induces swelling and fever to try to contain and destroy the microorganisms.
Infections can spread if not treated with antibiotics. In extreme cases, an infection can cause septic shock and death.
Phantom Limb Syndrome
Phantom limb syndrome happens when amputees experience pain and other sensations in the missing body part. Phantom limb is not a psychological phenomenon. It results from the brain receiving nerve signals associated with an outdated map of your body.
The nerves that formerly led to the amputated body part now sit in the stump. When the stump experiences sensations, your brain interprets the signals incorrectly and thinks they come from your missing body part.
Phantom limb affects 60-80% of amputees. Doctors cannot do much to treat phantom limb syndrome, but the brain eventually updates its map so it can interpret the sensations correctly.
What Compensation Can You Receive for an Amputation Injury?
An amputation injury could entitle you to substantial injury compensation. If it resulted from someone else’s negligent or intentional actions, you could pursue an insurance claim or lawsuit against the at-fault party.
You could receive substantial compensation for an amputation injury because of its permanent nature. If your amputation results in diminished earning capacity, deprives you of the ability to participate in activities, or visibly disfigures you, the compensation you receive could cover your losses for the rest of your life.
An amputation could leave you with a mountain of medical bills for surgeries, physical therapy, and mental health counseling. The loss of your body part could also leave you with permanent disabilities and disfigurement.
Contact a Clearwater Personal Injury Attorney For Help Recovering Compensation for an Amputation Injury
If another party’s negligence caused your amputation injury, you might be entitled to significant compensation. Contact Roman Austin Personal Injury Lawyers for a free consultation at (813) 491-8790 to discuss your case.