Amputation Injury

Amputations happen more often than you might think, with about 2 million Americans having experienced one. Many of these were minor amputations involving a missing fingertip or toe. Other amputations involve much more serious injuries that cause permanent disability.

Even when these amputees are fitted for a prosthetic device, they still have some loss of function. Just as importantly, almost all amputees experience neurological issues like phantom limb syndrome and emotional distress after the loss of their limbs.

What Is the Musculoskeletal System?

What Is the Musculoskeletal System?

Bones sit at the center of your musculoskeletal system. Their rigid nature supports your body weight and gives the muscles leverage to move your body.

The musculoskeletal system also includes soft tissues, which are composed of ligaments, muscles, tendons, and cartilage. 

These soft tissues perform several functions in your body, such as:

  • Holding the skeleton together
  • Lining the joints to reduce wear and tear 
  • Assisting the bones to support and move your body

The cells of your musculoskeletal system, including the bone cells, are alive. They require nutrients and oxygen to live, grow, and metabolize. Blood vessels deliver oxygenated blood to the body. There, the blood cells drop oxygen molecules off and pick up carbon dioxide waste.

The muscles move under the control of the nerves. Signals travel from the brain to the muscles, causing them to contract or relax. The contraction and relaxation motion, in turn, moves the body.

How Do Amputation Injuries Occur?

Amputations can happen in two ways:

Surgical Amputations

When you suffer serious damage to a body part, your doctor may recommend surgical amputation. In the procedure, the doctor will remove the damaged tissue and preserve the healthy tissue. The goal is to prevent the damaged tissue from causing a life-threatening infection.

A surgical amputation begins with a medical examination to determine how badly your tissue has been damaged. Doctors will look for viable bone, soft tissue, blood vessels, and nerves. This examination determines where the surgeon should cut through the body part.

The doctor will sever the soft tissues and tie off each blood vessel and nerve they encounter. When they reach the bone, the surgeon will saw through it. 

Once the damaged body part has been removed, the surgeon:

  • Fashions a stump 
  • Smoothes the bone at the stump so it does not irritate the remaining tissue
  • Determines how to stretch the skin to close the wound.

What doctors don’t always do is close the wound immediately. An open wound drains better than a closed wound, and doctors can more easily remove additional tissue if they leave it open.

That said, a closed wound has a lower risk of infection. Your doctor will balance the risks and determine whether to suture your wound or leave it open.

Traumatic Amputation

In some cases, it is an accident, not a doctor, that removes your body part. This is known as a traumatic amputation, which occurs when the forces involved in an accident sever, tear, or pull the body part from your body. 

For example, a workplace accident involving a machine with a blade could slice the fingers from your hand when the safety guard malfunctions.

What Can Cause an Amputation Injury?

In the U.S., 68% of amputations occur due to diseases such as:

  • Vascular disease
  • Cancer
  • Infection
  • Soft tissue ulcer

The remaining 32% of amputations result from traumatic injuries, including:

Vascular Damage

Trauma can mangle your blood vessels beyond repair. When this happens, the tissues below the injury will not receive blood. Instead, they die and develop gangrene. To save your life, doctors will amputate the tissue at risk of death.

Vascular damage can happen in almost any accident. A dog could mangle you and destroy your blood vessels in a dog bite attack, or the trauma of having your hand run over by a car in a pedestrian accident could collapse and tear the blood vessels.

Shattered Bone

Doctors are sometimes able to rebuild shattered bones using screws and plates. But in other situations, the bone has experienced too much damage to heal after surgery.

If pieces are missing and cannot be replaced with bone grafts, doctors may recommend amputation. Similarly, if the fragments are too small to reassemble, amputation may be the best option. Thus, you might lose your leg after a car smashes into it in a side-impact motorcycle accident.

What Complications Can Arise from Amputations?

Amputation injuries are susceptible to long-term complications. Some of the most common complications include:

Emotional Distress

Over 30% of amputees experience depression or other forms of emotional and mood disorders like anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). 

These difficulties can stem from the issues faced by amputees, including:

  • Grief over the loss of a body part
  • Anxiety about social acceptance after a disfiguring injury
  • Fear of the future without the missing body part

Many amputees will overcome their depression after going through the grieving process for their lost body parts. Others will experience chronic depression or anxiety that lasts for years.

Phantom Limb Syndrome

About 80% of amputees report feeling phantom limb sensations. Phantom limb syndrome happens when the actual body does not match the body map stored in the brain. The brain takes time to adjust to the loss of a body part. Until it does, sensations from the stump or even other body parts can get misattributed to the missing body part.

For example, the nerve centers for the face and hands are close to each other in the brain. Until the brain remakes its body map, a touch to the face could be misinterpreted as a touch to a missing hand. Doctors can treat phantom limb with mirror therapy, in which the person sees a reflection of their body oriented to replace the missing part.

What Compensation Can You Seek for an Amputation Injury in Florida?

The compensation for an amputation injury can be significant. Your economic losses include the cost of both your surgery and hospital stay and the income you lost due to your missing limb. Your non-economic losses involve your pain and mental anguish as well as the disfigurement and disability you experience over your remaining life. To discuss your amputation injury and the compensation you can pursue it, contact Lopez Accident Injury Attorneys at (727) 933-0015 for a free consultation.