The personal injury attorneys at Hall Law have extensive experience handling virtually all types of amputation injury cases, running the gamut, from the loss of a finger or toe to the complete loss of an entire limb, such as the total loss of a leg at the hip joint. As a result we understand the profound effect such an injury can have on the injured person and their family. If you or a loved one has suffered loss of a limb or a partial amputation, the compassionate attorneys at Hall Law can help. Our law firm has more than 35 years of experience representing people who have been injured in accidents and has successfully represented clients in numerous amputation related cases.
Many accidents result in amputations. In some cases the amputation is a direct result of the accident itself, such as where a finger or hand is severed by a power saw or where a toe or foot is severed by a lawnmower. In other cases the amputation may be the necessary result of the injury caused by the accident, such as where an arm or a leg is so severely injured that the only medically reasonable treatment is removal of the limb. Amputations may be partial, where only a portion of a digit or a limb is severed, or complete, where the entire digit or limb is lost. In any case amputation is a severe injury which has obvious and serious consequences for the remainder of the injured person’s life.
Amputations may result from a wide variety of accidents including, car accidents, truck accidents, construction site accidents, accidents involving unsafe or defective products, and accidents caused by inadequately guarded power equipment such as lawn mowers, power tools, farm equipment and construction equipment.
Amputees may be subject to two very different kinds of complications. Some complications are direct consequences of the amputation procedure, the underlying condition that led to amputation or both. These may generally be considered short-term complications. Other complications are truly “long term” in the sense that they represent how the life and health of amputees differ from the rest of the population.
The short-term complication that has received the most publicity is phantom pain in the amputated portion, which is felt by many amputees. While the exact cause is unknown, there are three theories: (1) loss of sensory input causes neural activity problems; (2) nerve endings in the stump were originally “innervated” by a severed nerve; (3) psychological trauma. The incidence and severity of phantom limb pain is thought to be directly related to prolonged ischemia before amputation, with some evidence that its occurrence is minimized by rapid postoperative rehabilitation.
Other short-term complications with direct ties to the surgical procedure include:
- Failure to heal
- Venous thrombosis and pulmonary embolism
- Stump pain
- Skin problems, including infection and cysts, on the stump from pressure
In the long term, amputees have been prone to certain problems at a much higher rate than the rest of the population. Most important is increased mortality (or shortened life expectancy), primarily due to cardiovascular disease. Amputees also have an increased tendency to fall due to unsteadiness of gait, which leads to a high incidence of fractures in both full limbs and stumps. Finally, progressive vascular disease can cause ischemia in stumps.
Rehabilitation is much more important to lower extremity amputees, whose sense of balance and weight bearing ability have been significantly altered. Lower limb amputees are given prostheses and gait training. Upper body strengthening is also begun early, so that the patient will have the strength to move himself. Exercises are done to help the patient regain a sense of balance.
Improved understanding of how the amputation procedure affects the fitting of prostheses has decreased many of the fitting problems seen in the past, although the physical consequences of the stump constantly rubbing on a hard, artificial prosthesis still causes many of the long term complications seen in this field. While advances in prostheses have been made, they have not been the dramatic leaps forward seen in other areas of medicine.
In amputations involving the upper extremity, surgeons attempt to preserve as long a length of bone as possible given the condition of the limb. This allows better prosthetic fit, but prostheses remain somewhat of a problem.