Amputation victims lose much more than the use of a body part of limb. Victims can suffer emotional and psychological trauma from the loss, and many experience physical pain. Many amputees cannot work again in the jobs they loved or the careers they trained for, and may require extensive physical rehabilitation. Most amputees also require long-term psychological help to cope with the emotional trauma of looking and feeling different.
The medical bills associated with traumatic amputation can be significant, and create a serious financial burden for individuals and families. These bills begin to accumulate, most often, with a trip to the Emergency Room, and then into an operating room.
According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, when surgeons perform an amputation, they try to save as much of the limb or body part as possible – while also removing any diseased or injured tissue that might affect the accident victim’s health or comfort. Some of the factors amputation surgeons consider include how the amputation will affect the victim’s mobility, appearance, and sensations. If a prosthetic device is being considered, amputation should be performed to ensure that the prosthesis will fit and function correctly.
Common amputation procedures include:
- Standard amputation. The limb is removed and muscles are anchored to the “cut end of the bone” and covered with skin. If a prosthetic leg is contemplated, the “terminal limb needs to be sufficiently padded with the patient’s soft tissue so that the prosthetic is comfortable and can bear weight without causing pain, infection and tissue breakdown.”
- Osseointegration (OI). This surgery involves removing a part of the body and inserting a steel implant into the stump of the leftover bone. A prosthesis can be attached to the implant. “When used for a leg amputation, this procedure can enable the leg and hip bones to absorb weight-bearing instead of the soft tissue left behind, so standing and walking feel more natural to the patient.”
- Rotationplasty. This procedure might be considered for patients who have a tumor in the bone or soft tissue. The surgeons remove the part of the limb where the cancer is. Then any healthy tissue below the tumor is “turned around and re-attached.” Some patients who undergo this amputation procedure may be able to use a prosthesis.
The post-amputation stump must be kept bandaged, clean and dry until the stitches (sutures) can be removed. [When the] initial bandaging comes off, the doctor may offer a compression device called a shrinker sock to prevent swelling in the stump as the blood vessels heal. This process helps prepare the stump for a prosthesis if using one is part of your plan. You typically start wearing it for a short time, ensuring it does not pinch the skin, and gradually build up to wearing it 23 hours per day.
Complications from post-amputation surgeries
One common complication that many amputation victims experience after an amputation is the development of phantom pain. Johns Hopkins states that “It may be that after amputation, the remaining nerve connections in the spinal cord and brain ‘remember’ the body part, and can cause a compelling sensation that it is still there (phantom limb syndrome) or severe pain (phantom pain syndrome).”
Amputation surgeons may try to address the nerves that carry sensations to the brain during the amputation surgery or at a later date if the patient is experiencing nerve pain (phantom symptoms) after surgery.
A major complication for amputees who lose a leg or a foot is the increased risk of falling such as when an accident victim tries to get out of bed and forgets his/her leg or foot was amputated. Placing a wheelchair or a walker next to the bed can be a good reminder. Rehabilitative therapy is critical to helping leg and foot amputees adjust to life without their body parts.
Many amputees also live with severe pain: “Pain control regimens may begin before surgery if possible. A peripheral nerve block might be necessary to control pain and phantom limb sensations.”
New prosthetic amputation therapies are available
Once all the surgical procedures are over, the survivor may be fitted for a prosthesis. This can also pose a substantial financial burden, as insurance companies’ policies vary when it comes to what they cover.
But there is good news on the horizon. There is continuing research and development of new prosthetic technologies, many of which can reduce the costs and increase the abilities of the wearer. Some of these advancements include the following:
- 3D printed prosthetics. 3D printed devices are a real breakthrough. They’re less expensive and more easily customized. They also take less time to create.
- For children. One father helped invent limbs, with the help of digital design tools and 3D printings, that can be “constructed in a matter of days and at a fraction of the normal cost.” Prosthetics for children can be expensive because children need to be fitted with new limbs as they grow.
- Thought-control prosthetics. Researchers at the University of Utah have developed a prosthetic arm named LUKE (after Luke Skywalker’s bionic hand in the Star Wars series). LUKE restores more than 100 sensations to amputees. The device works by “implanting a device into a person’s residual nerves, as well as electrodes placed in muscles.” An “information loop” transfers the information “into signals that the brain recognizes as sensations of touch.”
- Neuroprosthetics. According to a University of Chicago assistant professor, protheses will eventually be able to approximate the dexterity of the human hand. “Getting there will require scientists gaining a deeper understanding of how the human brain processes signals—like the ones that rush to your head when you accidentally slam your fingers in the car door.”
- Brain activity mapping. University of Houston scientists have been working on learning the role the brain plays in walking. They hope to demonstrate that “adding brain activity” into the mix of current prosthetic technologies, users will have more range of movement – and may even be able to play sports.
How our Sevierville injury lawyers can help after a traumatic amputation
Many amputations of a limb or another body part are due to car accidents, truck accidents, motorcycle accidents, construction accidents, falls, defective products, and many other causes. The common denominator to all these types of accidents is that someone or some company is usually responsible for the accidents and the amputations.
When negligence leads to your harm and losses, you can seek compensation for those losses from the person or parties who caused them. Part of that compensation covers your medical costs – current and future. If you do need a prosthetic device, the future costs associated with replacements can be worked into the damages package we negotiate on your behalf.
At Delius & McKenzie, PLLC, our Sevierville personal injury lawyers have an impressive record of verdicts and settlements on behalf of our clients. We are skilled at showing why accidents happen and why the defendants are responsible for your amputation or any other damages. We demand compensation for all your future medical expenses including surgeries and rehabilitative care, psychological care, physical pain, emotional suffering, loss of bodily function, lost income, and other financial and personal damages.
To assert your right to compensation, call us or complete our contact form to schedule a free consultation. We are relentless advocates for personal injury victims and families in Sevierville, Seymour, Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, and the surrounding Tennessee areas.
Attorney Bryan E. Delius was born and raised in Sevier County, TN. He founded Delius & McKenzie more than 20 years ago, after receiving his JD from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. He is admitted in Tennessee and in several federal court systems. Learn more about Bryan E. Delius.