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Amputations

The NHS estimates that over 6,000 major limb amputations are suffered each year.

The physical consequences of amputations can be devastating, causing a person to lose the ability to complete simple tasks around the home, continue employment or, in some circumstances, lead an independent life.

These potentially extreme changes in an injured person’s overall capability means it can be a challenging time for them and their loved ones, both financially and emotionally.

Within serious physical injuries, amputations can often have the most severe, life-changing psychological impact due to the emotionally traumatic nature of many amputations as well as the actual loss of a body part they have always had, which causes many amputees to feel a sense of grief and bereavement.

After an amputation, an artificial/prosthetic limb may be able to replicate the role of the lost limb, whether it is a hand, arm or leg. It can be a very difficult and challenging process to become fully used to using a prosthetic limb, but they have become increasingly effective in the performance of their functions thanks to scientific and mechanical developments in the area.

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Categories Of Amputation

Traumatic

This type of amputation involves the removal of a body extremity in an unexpected and violent incident.

A traumatic amputation can be life-threatening if there is a great loss of blood, as the body could go into circulatory shock.

Surgical

Amputation by surgery is usually required if the blood supply to an extremity has been restricted or cut off, which causes a wasting condition called necrosis.

Surgical amputation may also be necessary after a serious injury to remove a limb that has been too severely damaged that it cannot possibly be repaired.

An amputee may undergo numerous surgeries and treatments in order to make the wound safe, during which medical professionals will attempt to retain as much of a limb as possible so some functionality can be preserved.

Examples of surgical amputation include:

  • Digit amputation: the removal of one or multiple fingers or thumb at any finger or thumb joint
  • Transradial amputation: the removal of the lower arm below and not including the elbow
  • Shoulder disarticulation: the removal of the arm at shoulder level
  • Ankle disarticulation: the removal of the foot through the ankle joint
  • Knee disarticulation: the removal of the lower leg through the knee joint
  • Transfemoral amputation: the removal of the leg below and not including the hip

Causes Of Amputations

Amputations are often caused by or have to be carried out due to physical trauma suffered in an accident or due to infections and diseases that can be acquired due to negligent medical professional’s diagnosis or treatment.

Physically Traumatic Injuries

A traumatic amputation may occur due to an unexpected and violent incident that may be classified as being caused by one of the following:

  • Chemical: caused by chemicals with a corrosive properties
  • Mechanical: caused by mechanical malfunction or misuse of machinery
  • Thermal: caused by exposure to extreme heat
  • Electrical: caused by a powerful, high voltage electric shock

There are various situations in which an amputation due to trauma may occur:

  • Work accident
  • Pedestrian accidents
  • Motor accidents
  • Motorbike accidents

Medical Negligence

Meningitis is an example of a potentially devastating ailment that can result in amputations. It is an unfortunate fact of life that many diseases, infections and reasonable medical complications can cause such life-changing injuries, like amputations.

When the misdiagnosis or mistreatment of a disease or infection by a medical professional results in an amputation, a person may be left with devastating injuries and the feeling that the trust they had in a medical practitioner has been violated.

Diseases that may result in devastating amputations due to a medically negligent diagnosis or treatment include:

  • Cancer
  • Diabetes
  • Osteomyelitis

Moreover, a hospital acquired infection (HAI) due to poor hygiene may result in a person requiring an amputation. Such infections include:

  • Meningitis
  • MRSA
  • Staphylococcus Aureus

Effects Of Amputations

Limbs and smaller body extremities, such as the fingers, hand, toes and feet, are crucial in the facilitation of movement and mobility.

A person’s ability to carry out every day activities may diminish due to a reduced capability of movement, compromising an injured person’s independence.

Moreover, an amputation can be emotionally traumatic for a person to experience and their family may also struggle to come to terms with it, leading to psychological and emotional problems.

The experience of amputation claims among our expert solicitors ensures that they are ideal legal representation to pursue a claim for compensations on your behalf. The help they can provide through obtaining compensation for you will go some way to relieving the burden on your shoulders so you can plan ahead for the future while concentrating on your recovery. Without this vital help, an amputation can have devastating effects on all aspects of a person’s life as well as the lives of those closest to them.

The effects of amputations, and the severity of those effects, can vary among different people depending on their injuries, the way they sustained their injuries, their support system and their existing resilience or mental toughness.

Physical Effects

Infection

The risk of infection applies to almost all surgical procedures but an amputation has a higher risk during surgery as it is classed as a ‘major’ surgical procedure due to the size of the incision that normally has to be made which could lead to infection if the operating theatre is not up to the required hygiene standards.

In addition, after the surgery a stump is often used for support so the potential for damage and exposing the wound soon after operations can be high.

Infections to amputations sites can lead to further extensive treatments and operations or even a more comprehensive amputation than the first.

Impaired Movement

Amputations of the arms affects balance because the upper-body will have a different weight distribution to that of before the amputation, so walking and general manoeuvring can often be difficult for amputees.

Arm amputees who have lost the use of one or both hands or arms will struggle to complete everyday tasks, such as eating, so must learn to adapt to their new situation in order to complete such tasks.

Amputations of the legs usually mean that a person is unable to walk without the use of prosthesis or crutches.

Unfortunately, many people cannot or choose not to use prosthesis due to the difficult adaptation period of getting used to them, or because they physically cannot due to their injuries, age or general strength, so may have to keep mobile with the use of a wheelchair.

Stump Pain And Phantom Limb Pain

Stump Pain is a condition that describes pain in the remotest part of the amputated limb due to damaged nerves which send signals to the brain that are interpreted as pain.

Phantom Limb Pain describes a similar condition, where an amputee feels pain in the limb that was amputated. In spite of the fact that the limb is not present, the brain understands signals as pain in that limb. The pain levels suffered by those with Phantom Limb Pain ranges from short periods of discomfort to constant, excruciating pain.

Fatigue

An amputee may experience extreme fatigue, especially in the areas of the body that must make up for the muscle mass lost in the amputation, due to the loss of a body part that formerly played a functional role in the performance of everyday tasks.

Fatigue is a particular problem in lower-limb amputees that use prosthesis to walk or for sport and is also common in upper-limb amputees as, without the full use of both hands and arms, carrying out tasks previously considered simple can be an extremely challenging and lengthy process.

Psychological Effects

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

PTSD is more likely to be suffered by an amputee who has suffered their injuries in a painful and traumatic incident, especially if they struggle to forget or move on from the horrible memories of a traumatic amputation.

Surgical amputees have also been known to develop PTSD but it is less common in injured people who have gone through this type of amputation as the amputee has time to mentally prepare for their amputation and their amputation is carried out with the benefit of painkillers and anaesthetic.

Those suffering PTSD tend to experience depression, anger, insomnia, nightmares and flashbacks to the traumatic event. Please consult our pages on Serious Psychiatric Injuries for a more extensive look at PTSD.

Isolation

Social activities participated in before an amputation may not be possible to the same extent or at all for an amputee due to the nature of the activity in question and the disabilities they suffer from, such as many sports.

While this may be down to the obvious physical impairments suffered by amputees, it could also be the result of pain or side-effects from painkillers.

A person unable to participate in the same activities as before their injuries may feel helpless and isolated due to their changed situation and lack of social interaction at the level that they used to have.

Self-image

An amputee may feel self-conscious about how their stump or prosthesis looks due to their physical differences to the majority of people. They may harbour a fear of how others will react to their amputation and begin acting in an ashamed manner, thus restricting themselves socially, in employment and in education.

Treatment And Rehabilitation

The effectiveness and efficiency of amputation surgery as well as of prosthesis, physical rehabilitation and psychological therapy are all increasing due to advances in the area, so with the right guidance and some hard work, an amputee can improve their own condition in an attempt to return as close to normality as possible.

The treatment, rehabilitation and therapy provided for amputees aim to allow the injured person to have a good quality of life by maximising their independence through the proficient use of prosthesis or a wheelchair, teaching them techniques to live independently with their injuries and structuring their time to ensure their activity levels are as high as possible.

Stages Of Rehabilitation

At The Hospital

The length of time an amputee spends in hospital is dependent on the overall physical and mental condition of the injured person.

Health care professionals at the hospital will closely monitor the condition of the amputee to ensure there are no adverse effects of the surgery and to make sure that the wound is healing properly. Antibiotics will be administered to ensure infections are avoided.

As An In-patient

A tailored rehabilitation programme will commence once an amputee makes a sufficient recovery. This consists of processes to tackle both the physical and emotional effects of amputations.

In particular there will be attempts to build muscle strength and redevelop new types of dexterity, adapt their skills to be relevant to their new situation and put safeguards in place to ensure the wellbeing of their mental health.

At Home

After the critical stages of recovery are over and an amputee may return home, there is still much that needs to be done on a regular basis in order that they maintain good health.

An amputee must ensure that they take care of their stump in terms of sanitation and injury avoidance to prevent infection. A structured exercise programme will ensure the steady development of an amputee’s strength and coordination, helping them to complete tasks successfully and capably. This is all in the expectation that an amputee’s condition can continue to develop and improve in order to maximise their independence.

Types Of Therapy

Psychotherapy

One type of psychotherapy, called Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is extremely effective. It generally targets those with or at risk of depression as a result of their injuries. It aims to discover how an individual’s thought processes affect their actions and the way their actions affect their thought processes. By targeting thought processes and actions that reinforce them, negativity in their thinking can be reduced while positive thoughts are encouraged. This can help to reduce stress levels and allow a person to look ahead to the future by wielding a positive outlook.

Depression of the injured person or a family member can hinder the physical recovery of the injured person, especially if an amputee has PTSD, so different types of psychotherapy aim to address or avoid problems such as depression by tackling psychological and emotional frailties.

Occupational Therapy

Tasks that were previously considered simple by the injured person, such as bathing, are likely to be difficult for many of those suffering from serious amputation injuries. This type of therapy aims to maximise a person’s independence by helping a person to adapt to their new level of capability in order to perform the tasks they need to on a daily basis.

Physiotherapy

Physical therapy is tailored to an individual depending on their existing strength post-injury and the nature of the effects of their injury with the aim to develop an amputee’s strength, gait and coordination as well as making key muscle groups stronger and increasing their endurance abilities. It may also involve teaching a person to use their prosthesis or wheelchair effectively.

This type of therapy can be very hard and frustrating for an injured person as it can be painful and fatiguing, especially early on in the process, so it is vital that family and friends get on board to encourage and even participate in the completion of physiotherapy in order to improve an injured person’s overall physical condition long term.

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