What can I do if I Suffer an Injury Requiring an Amputation?
The doctor does not always have the option to spare a limb if the patient has suffered a severe injury that crushes the bone or damages blood vessels and nerves beyond repair. Other times, the patient developed a severe infection following a limb-sparing surgical procedure that now requires an amputation. Preparing to undergo an amputation can be physically, emotionally and mentally challenging. It is important to discuss crucial issues about your life changes and how you recover once the surgery is over.
In addition to experiencing life altering changes to your physical, mental and emotional health, you are likely facing financial burdens caused by your injuries. Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC represents patients who have undergone amputation to remove a limb or appendage and handle all types of cases involving professional negligence. Our law firm has successfully prosecuted cases for our clients suffering injuries caused by the negligence of others.
Our attorneys are available to answer any legal questions on how to receive the monetary compensation your family deserves because someone else caused the accident or event that led to your amputation. Should you have additional questions, we invite you to contact our office for a free review of your legal rights.
Why an Amputation is Necessary
On average200,000 individuals have an amputation every year in America. Most amputation procedures are the result of a vascular disease in the lower extremities, as they are not receiving adequate oxygen and nutrients. However, the remaining cases involve a traumatic event like a vehicle accident or construction site injury.
In some cases, the patient is not a candidate for options other than amputation, like revascularization; a medical therapy that restores body part perfusion after the patient suffers ischemia (inadequate blood supply). Other times, amputation is the only possibility if the patient did not heal properly in earlier bypass grafting operations.
If the medical team is unable to provide adequate treatment to the affected area quickly, the tissue and muscle can begin to die before an infection sets in. Some of the common reasons why amputation is necessary include:
- Severe injury from a vehicle accident that crushed bone or tore away muscle, nerves and blood vessels,
- The presence of gangrene
- Untreatable, non-healing open wounds (ulcers),
- Unbearable pain when the patient is at rest,
- Cancerous tumor in the limb's muscle or bone,
- Neuroma, or the thickening of limb's nerve tissue,
- Life-threatening infection that is highly resistant to antibiotics.
During the surgical procedure, the surgeon will remove dying or dead (necrotic) tissue in the affected area. By surgically removing the limb, the procedure can encourage wound healing, alleviate pain, and increase the patient's ability to maintain daily activities.
The doctor may decide to perform bypass grafting surgery during the procedure to maximize results. Grafting is especially important for individuals suffering from gangrene. Adding healthy tissue can preserve undamaged tissue in the area. If alternatives to treat severe pain while the patient is at risk of gangrene or nonhealing ulcers are unsuccessful, the surgeon may decide to amputate.
Receiving the appropriate care before having major surgery is necessary to ensure proper healing. To minimize the potential problems associated with removing a body part, the doctor will perform a comprehensive physical examination and take a complete medical history. Additional recommended tests may include chest x-rays, EKG (electrocardiogram), and routine laboratory tests.
The patient may be suffering from other postoperative problems if they have existing conditions including kidney issues, diabetes, or problems with the heart or lungs. Performing a comprehensive, preoperative evaluation is crucial to the patient's survival and recovery process. Patients who are seriously or chronically ill may have a more challenging time recovering from the surgical procedure that could take months to get through. Additionally, there is a significant risk of dying from the operation if other postoperative problems are not managed well.
How did my Doctor Decide I Need an Amputation?
If your doctor recommended amputation, their decision was likely based on a variety of factors including your general health and your potential for rehabilitation and recovery. The doctor's reason for amputating your limb is to ensure that all necrotic tissue is removed to create the best solution for you to use what remains of your limb with a prosthetic.
If possible, a knowledgeable surgeon typically recommends a below the knee amputation to maximize your mobility. If your other medical conditions limit your ability to walk, the doctor will still likely recommend a below the knee amputation to make it easier for you to move and transfer while in bed.
Your doctor has likely encouraged you to use a prosthetic device once the operation is over, even if you are frail or elderly. Amputating below the knee will make walking easier on a prosthesis compared to using an above-the-knee artificial limb. Many patients find it more difficult to walk with an above-the-knee prosthetic device compared to one that attaches below the knee.
When Is the Best Time to Operate?
Generally, immediate amputations are necessary if the patient develops a blocked blood supply or clot (sudden ischemia). Removing the blood clot before it can travel to the lungs, heart or brain could save the patient's life. Alternatively, the doctor may choose not to recommend an amputation if the patient's fingers have noninfected gangrene. Instead, the surgeon may recommend “auto ambulation” where the affected tissue will die on its own and slough away from the body. If successful, this process typically takes months.
However, gangrene infecting other areas of the body might necessitate amputation. Gangrene is a life-threatening infection that requires immediate treatment to remove the affected area while preserving other parts of the extremity. The surgeon may perform debridement where the necrotic tissue must be removed as quickly as possible. Typically, the postoperative site will heal quickly especially if the patient receives intravenous (IV) antibiotics.
If debridement and antibiotic treatments are nonresponsive or the patient is not stable, the surgeon may recommend amputation to ensure the patient's survival. Emergency amputations are typically done only if the individual cannot be stabilized without the procedure.
Preparing for an Artificial Limb
The success of walking with an artificial leg or using an artificial arm requires proper positioning, muscle strain, and daily exercise. Once the surgical procedure is over and the staples or sutures have been removed, the wound must heal properly. During this time, the medical team will begin preparing your affected limb to receive a prosthetic device. To ensure proper positioning of the artificial limb, the doctor will likely recommend you do muscle strengthening and stretching to avoid shortening and contracture (tightening) that would limit your range of motion.
Your team's goal is to ensure that you can maintain your hip and knee in a normal position to maximize your ability to use the prosthetic designed. You can improve your odds of success in specific ways including:
- When in a seated position, ensure that your affected limb is supported and not hanging or dangling. Also, use your “amputee board” when seated in a chair or wheelchair to support the weight of the affected limb.
- Never use a blanket or build a prop for your affected limb while lying or sitting down. Instead, keep the leg straight and in line with the knee.
- If you underwent an above-the-knee amputation, keep both legs together when possible. An artificial leg moving outward can be challenging to maintain when walking or moving quickly.
Strengthening and Stretching Exercises
Maintaining limber, strong muscles in the affected leg would make it significantly easier to use your prosthetic device when your first learning how to walk again. Stretching and strengthening exercises ensure that the intact leg and affected limb remain flexible and strong which is required when walking.
Desensitizing the Affected Site
In the first few months after your surgical procedure, the skin at the affected site will often become too sensitive to touch. However, you can desensitize the area by tapping, rubbing, or massaging the end of the surgical site.
To ensure success, start rubbing or massaging the area with a gentle, light touch. In time, as the tolerance of touching improves, you can begin to slowly increase the amount of pressure you applied to the area. This procedure can alleviate much of the discomfort you will feel when your prosthesis is finally fitted to your leg.
You will likely still experience a significant amount of swelling at the surgical wound even in the months after it is completely healed. To ensure that your prosthesis fits correctly, you need to alleviate as much swelling as possible through “shaping.” Your doctor or medical team will recommend you use a compression stocking (shrink or stock) that is designed to shape the affected limb.
The doctor will likely recommend that you wear the shrink or stock around-the-clock when possible, other than when you or bathing. Maintaining a snug fit usually requires pulling the sock type against the surgical site. Before your prosthetic device is ready, it is important to visit the prosthetist who will monitor your healing process and the changing size of your leg to ensure a proper fit when the device is ready.
Healing Your Financial Burdens
The outcome of your severe accident was likely catastrophic and left you with severe injuries, which is why you required an amputation surgery. If the accident or incident was caused by another's negligence, you could likely file a claim for compensation to recover your financial damages. An attorney working on your behalf can ensure you receive adequate monetary recovery and provide money for:
- Your emergency care expenses
- The cost of your hospital stay
- Your ongoing care
- The cost of your medical prescriptions
- Your lost wages due to time away from work because of your injuries
- Lost future earnings because of your temporary or permanent disability
- Your non-tangible (non-economic) damages including pain, suffering, emotional distress grief, anguish, and anxiety
Likely, the quality of life you experience after your accident is dramatically different than from before you were injured. Now you are likely suffering in pain and major discomfort, attempting to live life with a disability, and may even be disfigured. Filing a lawsuit against those responsible for your harm is the first step in alleviating your financial burden.
Hiring an Attorney
If the negligent actions of another individual or business caused an accident that resulted in your limb or appendage being amputated, hiring Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC could help. Our legal team has successfully prosecuted severe amputation injury cases to obtain millions on behalf of our clients.
Contact our attorneys today to schedule a no-obligation case evaluation to discuss the merits of your monetary recovery claim at no charge to you. Our legal team accepts all personal injury case, wrongful death lawsuit an accident injury claims through contingency fee agreements. This arrangement postpones the payment of legal services until after we have successfully resolved your case through a jury trial or negotiated out of court settlement.
Our law firm gets results quickly. We give every client a “No Win/No-Fee” Guarantee, meaning if we are unable to secure financial compensation on your behalf you owe us nothing. All information you share with our law office will remain confidential.
For additional information see the following pages:
- What are the Facts About Amputation Accidents?
- What Illinois Laws Govern Amputation Cases?
- Who can I Pursue a Claim Against if I Suffer an Injury Requiring an Amputation?
- Do I Need to File a Lawsuit for My Amputation Within a Certain Time Period Under Illinois Law?
- What Type of Financial Recovery can I Pursue for my Amputation Case?
- What Have Other Plaintiffs in Amputation Cases Recovered?
- How can Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers Help me With my Amputation Case?