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Jonathan Rosenfeld

March 2, 2023

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Many individuals who have undergone a leg amputation suffer disabilities and disfigurement that last a lifetime. Many of these individuals spend months in recovery, requiring psychological and physical therapy to return to a nearly normal life.

An amputation due to personal injury causes physical and financial pain, and families face substantial medical expenses while losing their ability to return to their job due to the increased challenges in performing even the simplest tasks involved in daily living.

A personal injury lawyer and a legal team specializing in amputation accidents have prepared some of the top amputation injury FAQ’s below.

What is Amputation?

Amputation identifies removing all or part of the extremity through a surgical procedure, illness, or trauma. Surgically, doctors will remove the extremity due to disease, including infection, gangrene, or a cancerous malignancy.

Amputation might be required due to frostbite when all or a portion of the extremity has died because of extreme cold. Limb loss might be the result of a neuroma, where nerve tissue thickens.

Patients with diabetes also undergo amputation of all or portions of an extremity when the body cells can no longer get sufficient nutrients and oxygen from the bloodstream. Typically, an amputation requires the patient to be hospitalized for up to two weeks unless complications arise.

During the amputation process, the surgeon removes any crushed bones and disease tissue while sealing off nerve endings and blood vessels. The surgical procedure includes cutting and reshaping muscle to form a stump where the extremity ends to allow the attachment of a prosthesis (artificial limb).

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What is a Complication of Amputation?

Every surgical procedure, including extremity loss, carries a severe risk of complications. Numerous contributing factors can cause complications, including the patient’s age, amputation, personal injury type, and comorbidities that jeopardize their general health.

However, severe complications are lower during a planned amputation injury surgery compared to those conducted during emergencies.

Common complications arising from extremity loss might include:

  • Heart attack or other heart issues
  • Developing pneumonia
  • Acquiring an infection at the wound site
  • Slow-healing wounds
  • Phantom limb pain
  • Residual limb pain, stump pain
  • Stomach pain

The surgeon often needs to perform additional procedures to alleviate pain, like when thickened nerve tissue (neuromas) develops. In these cases, the surgeon will likely remove an infected cluster of nerves where the extremity loss occurred.

Doctors often prescribe medicines to alleviate wound pain, including NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen or Motrin), opioids including morphine and codeine, antidepressants, anticonvulsants, and local anesthetic injections.

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How Long Does a Leg Amputation Surgery Take?

According to Johns Hopkins Medical Center, patients typically stay for up to two hours in the operating room during the amputation injury procedure. Part of that time allows the healthcare workers to take a “surgical time out” to ensure that they have the right patient undergoing the right surgery before anesthesia is given to start the procedure.

Afterward, the patient will spend up to an hour or more in the Post-Anesthetic Care Unit, where nurses closely monitor the recovering individual and begin administering pain control drugs.

The patient remains in the recovery room until entirely awake before being transferred to a general nursing unit where other nurses will provide medical support.

Afterward, the patient will be continually monitored for pain control and be given IV (intravenous) medication and fluids, along with any other medication to control nausea and expected side effects of post-general anesthetic procedures.

In time, the patient undergoing amputation injury surgery will begin exercising and increase their activity level with rehab exercises and physical therapy to ensure that the muscles keep moving to avoid constipation, blood clots, and breathing issues.

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What Happens After the Amputation Injury Surgery with the Rehabilitation Team?

The care team continually checks the patient’s blood pressure and inspects the incision site, changing any dressing when required to keep the site clean and dry. Some surgeons will forgo using a dressing and apply a cast instead.

The rehab team will continue to administer the patient intravenous fluids and nutrition until they drink and eat regularly. Typically, the healthcare team will assist the patient to the bathroom when required and help participate in rehab exercises.

The surgeon will typically follow up on their patient’s recovery to identify any stomach problems during its healing process.

Typically, a Nurse Practitioner will manage the patient’s healthcare, perform routine physical examinations, manage extremity bandaging, and update their health history to adjust any requested treatment options, tests, and drugs during the patient’s hospital stay.

The therapy team will work with the prosthetist to help ready the amputee for their prosthesis through rehab to minimize wound pain, bone pain, and nerve pain.

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What is Transmetatarsal Amputation?

A patient who needs a part or all of the foot removed will likely undergo trans metatarsal amputation, typically caused by severe infection or insufficient blood flow to the affected site.

Common problems that result in the need for a transmetatarsal amputation include:

  • Chronic foot ulcerations
  • The presence of gangrene caused by a lack of blood flow
  • Severely crushed foot caused by a catastrophic accident
  • Complications arising from diabetes

Typically, amputees will be given general anesthesia to avoid being awake or in pain during the procedure. Alternatively, the doctor may recommend spinal anesthesia to ensure that the surgical site is numb while the patient is awake.

The process involves cutting all the tendons, blood vessels, and nerves in the affected site. The surgeon uses sterilized bandaging, staples, or sutures to begin the healing process to prevent infection.

The procedure might include placement of the skin graft from an amputee body part or a cadaver donor. Drains may be attached to remove the excess accumulation of fluid and blood discharge.

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How Does Diabetes Cause an Amputation Injury?

Diabetes can lead to peripheral artery disease (PAD) that narrows blood vessels and restricts blood flow to the foot and lower extremities. The patient may also experience peripheral neuropathy (severe nerve damage) that prevents the patient from feeling pain.

Many patients with peripheral artery disease do not know that they have ulcerated wounds on their feet due to a lack of pain. As a result, they continue to put pressure on the feet and legs, causing problems that allow infection to develop.

Restricted blood flow also slows down the healing process, making the body less effective at warding off infections. Any wound that is not allowed to heal could lead to gangrene that spreads to the bone.

Untreatable infections could cause irreparable personal injury, necessitating amputation. Many individuals with diabetes lose their toes, feet, ankles, and lower legs.

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Why Is Amputation Frequently A Necessity In Diabetics?

Effectively managing diabetes and performing routine foot care can avoid many of the complications associated with severe foot sores that often lead to extremity loss. Complications associated with diabetes could involve low blood flow circulation and nerve-ending damage, worsening skin sores.

If an untreated foot sore worsens, amputation may be the only option, where dying bone tissue and muscles in the leg, foot, or toe must be removed.

Contributing factors that place people with diabetes at risk of extremity loss include:

  • Smoking
  • High blood sugar levels
  • Foot deformity
  • Corns and calluses
  • Peripheral neuropathy
  • Previous extremity loss
  • Foot ulcer histories
  • Visual impairment
  • High blood pressure (over 140/80 mmHg)
  • Kidney disease

Those with diabetes can prevent the development of foot ulcers by inspecting and washing their feet daily, carefully trimming toenails, never going barefoot, always wearing dry, clean socks and properly fitting shoes, stop smoking, and performing routine foot checkups.

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Which Type of Amputation is Most Common?

Surgeons perform more BKAs (below-the-knee amputations) than any other type of extremity removal procedure. Fortunately, these types of procedures are significantly less risky than a transfemoral amputation.

A below-the-knee amputation spares the knee joint and increases the successful outcome of using a prosthesis (artificial limb) to restore full leg use.

In addition to wearing a prosthesis, the amputee will likely wear a suspension sleeve that attaches to the prosthesis and rolls over the patient’s thigh, creating a tight seal that holds the artificial limb in place.

The sleeve eliminates the need for additional components and makes learning how to adapt to the artificial limb significantly easier.

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What Should I Expect After My Leg Amputation Personal Injury Surgery?

Losing an extremity can be life-altering, both physically and mentally, leading to adverse effects in finding a new normal lifestyle. While the process is often intimidating, patients have numerous organizations and resources available to help them re-adapt to their life-changing adjustments in the years afterward with peer support access.

The first few days after the surgical procedure are often the most challenging while the patient processes the changes they face. The nursing staff will continually redress the newly formed stump (residual limb), remove old dressings and help with amputation-level compression socks that reduce swelling at the surgical site.

Amputees will receive intravenous fluids and are likely to urinate through a catheter to avoid the need to use the restroom until the wound is more stable. Within a few days, an amputee will undergo rehab therapy involving gentle stretching exercises that increase the range of motion.

Rehabilitation helps prevent forming of blood clots that could be a silent killers if allowed to move to the lungs or brain. While the patient might be hospitalized for up to fourteen days, the wound will require at least eight weeks to heal completely.

During that time, the doctors will monitor the healing process and perform routine examinations, especially for those with hardened arteries and diabetes. The patient will likely manage their pain and exposure to infection using various medications to manage the risk of complications.

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What Is Fat Embolism From Amputation?

Science identifies fat entering the bloodstream as fat embolism syndrome, where symptoms can start within a day after the embolism develops.

The amputee may develop phantom limb pain, shortness of breath, decreasing consciousness, or petechial rash, where tiny round purplish-brown spots appear under the skin, caused by bleeding from a blood clotting disorder or minor trauma.

Fatal fat embolism most commonly occurs in children who have undergone upper extremity loss. Typically, these pediatric amputees have other comorbidities, including severe scoliosis or pre-existing insufficient respiratory reserves.

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How Do I Treat An Amputation?

If the amputation injury results from an emergency or accident, have the injured individual lie down and elevate the affected site. Avoid repositioning the victim if they have a leg, back, neck, or head injury.

Apply direct pressure to the injury and use a compression bandage or tourniquet only if the patient is bleeding severely that cannot be stopped using direct pressure.

Likely, an amputee going into shock from extremity loss needs immediate emergent treatment. Treat them by having them lie on their back, raising their feet approximately 1 foot from the surface. Cover the injured party with a blanket or coat and attempt to calm them if possible until medical assistance arrives.

Take precautions to protect the injury site and save the amputated part that might be reattached under specific circumstances. Do not use soap and water and scrub the detached extremity but attempt to remove any debris and dirt before placing it in a clean, plastic bag in ice for transport to the Emergency Room.

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How Long Does Residual Limb Phantom Pain Last After Amputation Injury Surgery?

Phantom pain is the painful sensation an individual feels after undergoing an amputation injury surgery where they feel pain, discomfort, or tingling sensation in the area where the body part was before the extremity loss. In time, the sensation grows weaker and is less noticeable or uncomfortable.

Phantom pain onset typically starts in hours or days after the surgical procedure. The patient can feel various sensations, including itching, pressure, twisting, or burning, especially when the toes and fingers have been removed.

Each person who suffered an amputation injury is affected by phantom pain differently. In some cases, the patient feels the pain for days. In others, the sensation lasts only seconds. Many people with amputations never speak about what happened, believing that others will think they are not thinking clearly.

However, numerous activities can trigger phantom limb pain, including:

  • Angina
  • Barometric pressure changes
  • Defecation and urination
  • Cigarette smoking
  • Exposure to cold
  • Herpes
  • Sexual intercourse
  • Touching

A doctor might prescribe numerous medications to prevent or manage phantom limb pain, including NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) like Motrin, Acetaminophen like Tylenol, narcotic pain medications (opioids), beta-blockers, anticonvulsants and antidepressants, and muscle relaxers.

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What Happens In A Car Accident Where Someone Loses a Limb and Needs an Amputation?

Many vehicle accident victims suffer a traumatic extremity loss, where the crash led to the loss of a limb, hand, foot, or digit. Typically, these accidents lead to profuse bleeding that could eventually develop into infection or shock.

Sometimes, the doctor can reattach the severed limb or digit at the stump (residual limb). Other times, the victim will need a prosthetic (artificial) limb to restore some of their movement.

Statistics released by the National Institute of Health revealed that approximately two-thirds of all traumatic amputations involve severed upper limbs. The data shows that males have a significantly higher risk than females of experiencing traumatic extremity loss.

Most traumatic amputees lost their limbs when they were eighty-five years or older. Many of these older patients require an around-the-clock care group and daily rehab with the therapy team to minimize residual limb (stump) problems.

After medical surgery, prosthetists typically worked directly with the patient’s rehab therapist to provide answers on how the client’s prosthesis works and if any adjustments need to be made to the internal components.

Learning is often complex for older amputees on adapting to changes of working with an artificial limb and keeping the stump (residual limb) healthy.

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What Type of Wound Care Can Prevent Infection after Amputations?

An effective wound care plan can prevent the development of an infection on the residual limb. Nearly every surgical procedure, including extremity loss, has an increased risk of infection due to the skin being opened during the procedure.

Many patients with infections will develop fever, pain, tenderness, swelling, redness, and discharge at the surgical site. If left untreated, the complications arising could lead to death.

While the patient was hospitalized, healthcare workers, including nurses and nursing aides, were responsible for caring for the wound after surgery. Once the patient has been released from the hospital, they are likely more prone to develop infections and skin breakdown (bedsores).

Any patient suspecting that they are developing an infection should do something quickly. Other preventative measures include:

  • Wash the residual limb using mild soap and water followed by a clean wipe and patted dry. Do not scrub the area.
  • Only wear amputation-level compression socks, support socks, and liners, and wash the support socks using mild soap and water before rinsing completely
  • Avoid using alcohol-based skin lotions that can cause the area to become cracked and dried, leading to infections
  • Do not over-apply a skin-softening lotion or any perfumed moisturizing lotion that could irritate the skin
  • Always wear the prosthesis (artificial limb) in its correct alignment using properly fitted limb socks to minimize any undue pressure that could cause a pressure sore or infection
  • Individuals with diabetes must monitor and maintain their condition to ensure that they are at the proper glucose levels

At any of the first signs of infection, seek immediate medical care and treatment right away to avoid jeopardizing your health and well-being. Some of those signs include decreasing circulation, the sensation of coolness or cold, swollen armpit or groin, and black or gangrene skin.

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Is My Prosthetist A Doctor?

According to Johns Hopkins University, a prosthetist is a professional working in the healthcare industry, making and fitting prostheses (artificial limbs) for those who have undergone amputation injury surgery.

A prosthetist creates specialized artificial arm and leg prosthetics for individuals who have lost limbs due to a traumatic amputation injury, diabetic condition, cancer, or other health care problem.

While they are specialists in the field, they are not doctors and instead received training through an internship or graduate program. A prosthetist typically works with hospitals, private practices, outpatient rehab centers, inpatient rehab centers, and industrial care centers.

These healthcare professionals typically worked directly with a rehab therapist to maximize the patient’s outcome when fitted and wearing a prosthetic implant to replace the missing body part.

Prostheses are designed to restore the patient’s normal functions of their missing body part as soon as possible to minimize residual limb pain, bone pain, nerve pain, and strain on the stump while wearing prosthetics.

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What Percentage Does a Personal Injury Law Firm Take?

Typically, a personal injury lawyer handling an amputation injury claim will take one-third (33.33%) if they negotiate a settlement on behalf of the victim. However, if the defense or their insurance company fails to make a reasonable offer and the injury case goes to trial, the attorney will likely take 40%.

Typically, amputation injury lawyers will cover all the upfront costs of submitting a claim, filing court documents, hiring an accident reconstructionist, deposing medical and traffic experts, and other expenses.

Expected costs and expenses involved in a personal injury claim and case include medical records, police reports, depositions, filing fees, postage, trial exhibits, transcripts, and medical records.

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How Much Compensation Do You Get for a Leg Amputation?

A leg or arm amputation accident case filed against the property owner, business, or motorists could settle for $1 million or more if the victim who suffered an amputation injury has permanent pain and requires ongoing surgical procedures.

These cases are usually based on another individual or entity’s gross negligence that caused the accident.

Life-altering amputation injury surgeries required because of another’s negligence or intentional act could involve:

  • Vehicle accidents
  • On-the-job injuries
  • Agricultural accident
  • Medical malpractice
  • Electrocution
  • Explosive and fireworks accidents
  • Semi-tractor-trailer crashes
  • Motorcycle collisions
  • Construction site accidents

Typically, the injured victim with an amputation injury claim can obtain financial compensation to pay for all damages, including hospitalization costs, healthcare bills, rehabilitation expenses, lost wages, future loss of earnings, emotional distress, pain, and suffering.

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What are Some of the Reasons a Person Might Hire Injury Lawyers after They Suffered an Amputation?

Every victim with an amputation injury caused by another’s negligence or intentional actions has a legal right to an injury claim and be compensated for their damages. However, the defendant’s insurance company will use a legal team of attorneys and claims adjusters to evaluate your claim almost immediately.

Because of that, consider hiring a personal injury law firm and legal team that specializes in amputation injury case. You likely have many unanswered questions about how an accident injury claim is handled and what you can do independently.

An experienced legal team can help you on numerous fronts, including:

  • The personal injury attorney only represents plaintiffs seeking compensation and never works for insurance companies and claims adjusters attempting to minimize the compensation paid to victims
  • The personal injury law firm will be professional, objective, and ready to scrutinize all evidence presented by the defendant’s side
  • A competent amputation injury lawyer will have excellent negotiation skills they can help resolve the case quickly when meeting with the defendant’s attorneys to settle your claim
  • Your injury lawyers will ensure you receive the best medical attention required to heal as much as possible, as quickly as possible
  • A personal injury attorney will build a settlement case with compelling evidence to take the case to trial if needed
  • A competent amputation injury lawyer will increase your chances of obtaining the compensation you deserve for your injuries paid by the defendant at fault for your damages

A personal injury attorney working on your behalf can ensure you receive maximum compensation to pay for your medical bills, lost wages, future lost earnings, pain, suffering, and emotional distress

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Have More Amputation Injury FAQ?

Contact our law firm today for a free consultation with an attorney who has experience with amputation injury cases. We can discuss your legal rights and options for recovery.

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