Amputations are when you lose a body part. These injuries, by definition, disable you. You will lose the functions associated with the amputated body part. These disabilities will vary depending on the injury.
A lost toe might cause only minimal disruptions to your abilities. But a missing hand could significantly disable and disfigure you. Even if doctors can fit you with a prosthetic, your injury will still prevent you from engaging in at least some of the tasks you used to perform.
Amputations primarily affect limbs and facial features. Depending on the area amputated, some common body structures will be affected.
Your limbs have bones at the center. This skeleton serves several purposes, including:
Some of your body parts do not have bones to provide structure. These body parts, like your ears and nose, get their forms from cartilage. This collagen material is strong but flexible. It gives these body parts shape without the brittle characteristic of bones.
Ligaments connect bones at the joints. These strong bands of tissue guide the movement of your joints so they do not bend the wrong way.
Muscles sit over your bones and attach to the skeleton through tendons. Additionally, blood vessels run throughout your musculoskeletal system to carry oxygen to all tissues.
Most amputations in the U.S. result from diseases. Only about 32% of amputees suffered traumatic injuries.
Amputation injuries can happen in two ways:
Traumatic amputations happen when an accident or incident removes the body part. For example, you could lose your foot in a construction accident when a heavy object falls on your ankle. Or you might have a finger torn from your body when you suffer a dog bite injury.
Sometimes, a surgeon can reattach a traumatically amputated part. To do this, they will reconnect the blood vessels to restore the blood supply. They will also graft the nerves so you have motor control and sensation in the amputated part.
The viability of this type of replantation surgery depends on several factors, such as:
Thus, you may undergo a successful reattachment procedure when a blade slices cleanly through your body part and you get to a hospital quickly. But doctors might not even try to replant a body part that was ripped from your body and chewed up during a dog attack.
A surgical amputation happens when you injure a body part so severely that doctors recommend removing it. The most common reason for surgical amputations is vascular damage. When an accident destroys the blood vessels, your body part will die from a lack of oxygen.
The decaying flesh will develop gangrene, a dangerous infection that can kill you. Doctors will recommend removing the doomed body part to prevent gangrene from setting in.
Doctors may also remove a body part when you shatter a bone. In many situations, doctors can reconstruct a shattered bone using screws and plates. But in some cases, they cannot rebuild it because the pieces are too small or missing. As a result, they must amputate the body part.
Before a surgical amputation, doctors will evaluate your injury and identify where the damaged tissues end. They plan the surgery to remove all the damaged tissue while preserving as much healthy tissue as possible.
The surgeon will cut through the flesh and bone, tying off the blood vessels and nerves they encounter. Once they remove the body part, they will smooth the bone and form a viable stump to receive a prosthesis.
Amputations have a high incidence of complications. Some common complications include:
Over 80% of amputation patients experience phantom sensations. These sensations appear to come from the amputated body part.
These patients may feel:
Phantom sensations are not imaginary. They happen because the brain takes time to rewire itself after an amputation. In most cases, sensations from elsewhere in the body appear to come from the missing body part. Since the brain’s body map is outdated, it misinterprets the sensation.
In other cases, these sensations come from the lack of feedback from the missing part. Normally, when the brain wants to clench your right hand, it stops when your hand reports that it has closed.
However, if your hand is missing, your brain receives no feedback from it. It will continue to send impulses down your arm to clench the hand. These clenching impulses can produce pain in the stump that gets misinterpreted as pain in the missing hand.
Amputations can also affect your emotional and mental states. Over 30% of amputees experience anxiety, depression, and other forms of emotional distress.
You go through the grieving process after losing a body part. You may also feel fear for your future and social anxiety about your disfigured body.
These emotions can produce:
Counseling and therapy can sometimes help relieve the symptoms of depression. But in many cases, an amputation can have a life-changing effect on an amputee’s outlook and personality.
You can seek compensation when your amputation resulted from someone else’s intentional or negligent actions. To prove negligence, you must show that the other person failed to exercise reasonable care. If you successfully prove negligence, you can pursue compensation for your medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other losses. Contact Tillmann Law Personal Injury Lawyers at (503) 272-8986 for a free consultation to discuss your amputation injury and the compensation you can seek.