According to the National Limb Loss Information Center, almost two million people are living with a limb amputation in the United States. The loss of a limb can create a lifetime of complications, decrease functioning, and cause emotional distress. In some cases, it may permanently change certain aspects of a person’s life. But the loss of a limb does not just affect the individual who suffered the amputation; it also affects the entire family.
Causes of Limb Amputation
A limb may be amputated due to either a medical condition or a traumatic injury. Below the knee amputations are the most common limb loss. The most frequent causes of amputations include:
Trauma: According to the Amputee Coalition, about 45 percent of amputations occur as a result of traumas, such as a motor vehicle or motorcycle accident. In some cases, a limb may be crushed beyond repair or burned, and the limb cannot be saved.
Vascular disease: Vascular disease involves a problem with the arteries, veins or capillaries that carry blood from the heart to various parts of the body. If the vascular system is not working properly, it can cause decreased blood flow to a limb and eventually the need for an amputation.
Infections: If an infection becomes severe, it can lead to dead tissue, which can make an amputation necessarily.
Recovery After a Limb Amputation
Immediately after surgery, the wound is sealed with surgical staples or stitches. A tube is placed to drain any fluid from the area. A bandage is placed over the stump to decrease the chance of an infection. The recovery process also includes:
Prosthetics: Although getting fitted for a prosthesis is optional, many people choose to try to use an artificial limb. Prosthetics have come a long way in the last two decades. For example, advances in materials have made prosthetic limbs lighter and more comfortable. Sports specific prosthetics are also available, which allow amputees to participate in various activities.
The fitting for a prosthetic limb may depend on how well a person heals. Some people are fitted for a prosthetic limb a few weeks after surgery. For others, it may take a few months for their incision to heal enough for a prosthesis.
Rehabilitation: Rehabilitation including physical and occupational therapy is needed after an amputation. Therapy may involve exercises to improve general endurance and strength to compensate for the limb loss. Recovery also includes learning how to do daily living activities using adaptive devices or a prosthesis. It often takes at least six months to a year of rehabilitation to get used to using a prosthesis.
Complications of an Amputation
Dealing with the loss of a limb is a significant adjustment. But in some instances, complications may also develop, which cause additional issues. Complications may include:
Infection: The incision can become infected after an amputation. Also, the stump may have skin breakdown or blister formation. Infections can slow healing and delay the use of a prosthesis.
Phantom limb pain: Some people who have an amputation develop phantom limb pain. Phantom limb pain involves feeling discomfort from a part of the body that is no longer there. According to the Mayo Clinic, phantom limb pain may occur due to sensations that originate from the spinal cord.
Emotional effects: An amputation can affect body image and lead to depression and anxiety. It can take additional counseling to work through psychological and emotional issues involving the loss of a limb.
Muscle weakness: Muscle weakness can develop due to deconditioning and reduced mobility during the initial recovery. Muscles may be required to carry more weight and perform additional functions after an amputation. The extra work required may lead to muscle fatigue and stiffness.
Many people who have suffered an amputation go on to have a high degree of functioning. But the road to recovery is often long and can be expensive. The cost of prosthetics and rehabilitation can be extensive. Also, the loss of wages can have a big impact on a person’s financial well-being.
If you or a loved one has suffered an amputation due to someone else’s negligence, you may be eligible for compensation. We are here to help. Please call our office at 312-698-3694 for a free consultation with one of our top-rated attorneys.