Amputation - Medical Negligence Solicitors – Compensation Claims

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A surgical amputation is the removal of a part or all of a limb. A limb can be defined as a foot, leg, hand, arm, toe or finger. There are currency over 100,000 people in Australia who have suffered from a leg amputation. The most common type of amputation is a leg amputation, which can be defined as a loss of the limb above or below the knee.

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Necessity for Amputation

Why would a person need an amputation? There are actually several reasons. The most common reason for an amputation is peripheral vascular disease, which involves poor circulation in the arteries leading to the foot. The tissues cannot get enough oxygen and they can become gangrenous if left untreated. With gangrene, the tissues blacken and die off as a result of poor oxygenation and the buildup of toxins within the cells. Infection can happen if the surgery is not done.

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Reasons for Amputation

Other reasons why a person might need an amputation include the following:

  • Having a severe crush injury or burn in an extremity as part of an accident.
  • Frequent extremity infections that do not improve with antibiotics.
  • Cancer located in an extremity.
  • Nerve tissue thickening in what’s called a neuroma.
  • Severe frostbite of the fingers, hands, toes or foot.
  • Diabetic vascular disease

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Surgical Procedure

During the amputation, the extremity that is unhealthy is removed. This can be done using spinal anesthesia or general anesthesia. The doctor needs to decide how much tissue should be removed at the time of surgery. The length of stay is between 5 and 14 days, depending on how sick the patient already is and any complications of the amputation. The patient may need to be fitted with a prosthetic device and the time to healing can be short or long.

The doctor’s decision-making around how much tissue to remove depends on the following:

  • Comparing the temperature of the skin in the damaged area and the normal area.
  • Checking pulses in the extremity.
  • Finding areas of redness in the skin.
  • Checking sensitivity of the tissue at the demarcation of good and bad tissue.

As part of the procedure, the surgeon will take off the crushed bone or the diseased tissue, or both. He will smooth out the uneven areas of bone. Blood vessels and nerves will be sealed off. Muscles will form a stump so that bone isn’t sticking out.

The surgeon can elect to close the wound immediately. He may also decide to leave the wound open in case more tissue will have to be made. A dressing is placed over the wound and the surgeon threads a stocking over the wound so that it can catch the wound drainage. Traction may need to be applied or possibly a splint.

The amputation could suffer from a complication. Some of these complications include:

  • Intraoperative bleeding that can require a transfusion.
  • Infection of the wound site.
  • The necessity of taking off more tissue because not enough was taken in the first place.
  • Accidentally amputating the wrong extremity.

After the amputation, the patient gets dressing changes and learns how to change his or her own dressing changes. Medications are given to relieve pain. Phantom pain can happen and there are medications available to handle that.

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Physical Therapy

The doctor prescribes physical therapy that begins with stretching exercises. The use of the artificial limb, if used, begins at around 10-14 days following the surgery. The wound usually heals completely in about 4 to 8 weeks postoperatively. There will be mental and emotional problems after such a procedure and a counselor or psychiatrist might be necessary.

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Healing & Rehabilitation

Ideally, the wound should fully heal in about four to eight weeks. But the physical and emotional adjustment to losing a limb can be a long process. Long-term recovery and rehabilitation will include:

  • Regular exercise.
  • Activities in occupational therapy to promote patient independence.
  • Use of assistive devices along with the artificial leg.
  • Psychological and emotional support.


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