Losing a body part can be an extremely traumatic event. Amputation injuries may be sustained as the result of traumatic incidents such as an explosion, a construction accident, a car crash or an act of violence. An amputation is a catastrophic injury because once you lost a body part, you will likely lose its use and functionality. Even if you may be able to obtain prosthetics, your body will never be the same again. You may lose your job, career and earning potential. You will have to spend a significant amount of money for medical expenses, surgeries and prosthetics. If your injuries were caused by someone else's negligence or wrongdoing, it is important that you obtain more information about your rights.
Causes of Amputation Injuries
There are a number of reasons why some injured victims may need to have an arm, hand, finger, leg, foot or toe removed. In many cases, injured victims require amputation surgery because there is not enough circulation in a specific part of their body. Without proper blood flow, the body's cells could die or become infected.
There are many types of serious accidents that can result in an amputation including car accidents, heavy machinery accidents, construction accidents and house fires. Other causes include cancerous tumors, serious infections, frostbite and a thickening of nerve tissue called neuroma.
Extent of the Injury
Not all amputations are treated in the same manner. Your doctor will have to carefully check for your pulse near where the surgeon will cut. It will be necessary to compare skin temperature and nerve sensitivity. The dying parts of your limb will have limited sensation, less heat and a faint pulse. The goal is typically to leave as much healthy tissue as possible.
The surgeon will have to remove the dead tissue and crushed bones. Your surgeon will also smooth uneven bones, seal off blood vessels and shape the muscles around the stump so that you can have an artificial limb attached in the future. Depending on your injuries, the surgeon may close the wound right away or leave the site open in case you need additional surgery.
Recovering from an Amputation
Patients who require an amputation are typically in the hospital for a couple of weeks. Their wound will need dressing and careful monitoring. Some patients require much more than pain medications. For example, it is common for patients to suffer from phantom pain where they sense pain in the amputated limb. Others experience grief over their lost limb. In these types of cases, psychological counseling is often needed in addition to medication.
Physical therapy should begin as soon as possible. Stretching exercises should begin shortly after the surgery. Practice with an artificial limb may begin within a couple of weeks. However, the road to recovery is often long and difficult. Many patients require:
- Exercises to improve their body control, strength and flexibility.
- Occupational therapy to help learn how to carry out daily activities and become independent.
- Therapy sessions that teach them how to use their artificial limbs.
- Emotional support to help them deal with the grief of losing a limb.
The Cost of Losing a Limb
The expenses for losing a limb can add up very quickly. A 2007 study at the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health examined the health care costs for 545 patients over a two-year period. The cost for patients who received reconstruction of a body part was $81,316. The cost of amputation was $91,106. When calculating their long-term losses, the results were considerably different. Lifetime health care costs for reconstruction patients was $163,282 compared to the $509,275 for amputation patients
The costs reported in that 2007 study only reflect health care costs. There are many other costs and expenses that result from an amputation, including:
- Lost wages
- Loss of earning potential
- The cost of rehabilitation services
- Prescription drugs
Get the Help You Need
If you or a loved one has required an amputation, it is important to understand your options. You may not only be faced with significant expenses, but also the inability to make a living. You may never be able to work or support your family. The emotional toll in such situations can be significant, not only for the victim, but also his or her family. It is important during these challenging times to obtain the resources, support and counsel you need to get on that road to recovery.