Amputations happen more frequently than most people realize. Over 185,000 people lose a limb or a part of a limb every year. Over half of these amputations result from diseases like diabetes, vascular disease, and cancer.
But about 45% result from trauma. Car accidents can cause lower limb amputations if the occupants’ legs get crushed. And workplace accidents are a leading cause of upper limb amputations.
Here is some information about the causes of amputation injuries and the compensation accident victims can seek for them.
What is the Structure and Function of Your Limbs?
Your limbs contain parts from the circulatory, nervous, and musculoskeletal systems to give them their structure and functionality.
Bones provide structure. Minerals in your bones make them rigid to support the soft tissue surrounding them. Ligaments in your joints hold the bones together.
Muscles give your limbs movement and strength. Muscles anchor to the bones through tendons. These tendons allow the muscles to use the bones for leverage when lifting or carrying objects.
Connective tissue holds the muscles together. And skin protects your limbs from microorganisms, chemicals, and radiation.
Nerves run to the muscles and the skin. Nerves carry the motor signals from the brain to the muscles to control their movements.
They also carry sensory signals from the skin to the brain. These sensory signals give the brain information about pressure, texture, and temperature sensed by the skin.
All these structures require oxygen to perform their functions. Blood vessels run throughout your limbs to carry oxygen-rich blood to the cells and carbon dioxide waste away from the cells. Without blood circulation, these cells will die.
How Does an Amputation Injury Happen?
Amputations happen when these structures get so damaged that the limb cannot survive. If doctors leave the damaged limb attached or attempt to reattach it, the dying limb could jeopardize the accident victim’s life.
Amputations often result from damaged blood vessels. But crushed or shattered bones, torn nerves, and mangled muscles could also lead to amputation.
Decaying flesh develops gangrene. It releases toxic chemicals that make you sick. If doctors do not amputate a dead or dying limb, the gangrene could kill you.
What Types of Amputation Injury Can Occur?
Amputation injuries happen in two ways:
Surgical amputations occur when doctors remove a damaged body part. The decision to amputate will rely heavily on whether doctors can restore circulation to the damaged body part. Even bones need a blood supply. When doctors cannot repair the blood vessels, they often need to amputate.
The procedure for amputating a limb involves:
- Removing the damaged limb
- Closing loose blood vessels
- Tying loose nerves
- Shaping the bone and muscle to form a smooth stump
- Creating a skin flap
At this point, doctors can close the wound or leave it open. If they close it, they reduce the risk of infection and bleeding. But if they leave it open, they can easily remove more tissue if necessary.
After surgery, you will likely need physical therapy and rest to recover from your injury. After your stump has healed, you may get fitted for a prosthetic device.
A traumatic amputation happens when your accident severs, pulls, or disarticulates your limb from your body. This could happen in almost any accident involving powerful forces.
The force of a car crushing you in a pedestrian accident could tear your leg from your body. A workplace accident involving a saw could cut off your finger.
Sometimes doctors can reattach a traumatically amputated limb. But this can only happen under the right conditions.
Doctors cannot reattach a limb that was:
- Detached for more than six to eight hours
- Exposed to dirt, chemicals, or other contaminants
If doctors cannot reattach the amputated limb, they will follow the surgical amputation procedure to create a viable stump.
What Complications Can Arise from an Amputation Injury?
Amputation injuries can require a long recovery. This recovery will likely involve some complications, including:
An infection happens when microorganisms enter your body through an open wound. Most environments have bacteria and other pathogens. Whether you suffered an injury in your workplace or your car, your wounded limb was probably exposed to microorganisms.
The microorganisms multiply and release toxic substances, killing your cells. They also compete with your cells for resources.
Your body triggers an immune response to deal with the infection. The injury swells to cut off circulation and trap the microorganisms. Your body runs a fever to kill the microorganisms. Between the bacteria and your body’s response, you can get very sick.
Doctors treat infections with antibiotics. If an infection goes untreated, you could go into septic shock.
Phantom Limb Syndrome
Phantom limb syndrome is one of the most common complications from an amputation injury. About 80% of amputees experience this condition.
A phantom limb can manifest differently depending on the patient.
It includes sensations that seem to come from the missing limb, such as:
Phantom limb is not psychological. It happens because the brain’s neurological map takes time to update. The brain mistakenly interprets sensations in and near the stump as happening in the missing limb.
Mental and Emotional Distress
Depression occurs in over 30% of amputees.
This depression can result from many feelings, including:
- Grief for the lost limb
- Fear of the future without the limb
- Social anxiety over the disfigurement
- Trauma from the accident
The mental and emotional distress caused by the injury can lead to further problems, such as angry outbursts and substance abuse.
What Compensation Can You Get for an Amputation Injury?
You can seek injury compensation if your amputation was caused by the negligence of a person or business. The compensation you can recover can include your economic and non-economic losses.
Your economic losses from an amputation could be substantial. You will have bills for surgery, physical therapy, and a prosthesis. You could miss substantial time from work. You might even need to quit your job.
You will also have significant non-economic losses. These losses include your pain, suffering, disfigurement, disability, and reduction in the enjoyment of life. An amputation will leave you permanently disfigured and disabled. As a result, the quality of your physical and mental life may suffer.
To discuss the compensation you can seek for these and other losses from an amputation injury, contact a Vista personal injury attorney from Petrov Law Firm for a free consultation at (619) 344-0360.