What are Amputations?

Amputations occur when all or part of an appendage is cut away from the rest of the body. Because we use our hands so much in out everyday lives, amputations of the hand and fingers are, unfortunately, not uncommon. Due to the loss of blood and relatively large surface area of most amputation wounds, it is important to have them treated as soon as possible, so as to avoid infection.

What causes Amputations?

Amputation can be either the result of trauma or a surgical solution to a larger problem. Traumatic amputations are more common, and much more detrimental to health and wellbeing, because they do not occur in a safe, clean, medical environment. Some common causes of traumatic amputations are kitchen accidents, but anyone engaged in an occupation or hobby that involves sharp objects is at risk. Factory workers, construction workers, farm workers and machinists are frequent sufferers of amputation injuries, but even the weekend warrior can do some damage with a band saw if he isn’t careful.

What are symptoms of Amputations?

Amputations are fairly straightforward in presentation, as the body part in question is literally severed from the rest of the body. Blood loss can vary greatly, depending on the severity of the wound, its placement, and whether or not the associated blood vessels have been affected by the wound (i.e. closed off from pressure or cauterized shut). Complete hand amputations, for instance, are usually much bloodier affairs than a single finger, although this is not always the case. Unless the amputation is a perfectly clean one, there is also a chance that the skin and flesh around the wound will be mangled or torn. Pain is also usually present, but this can vary as well, because often, a person who suffers a traumatic amputation will feel pain at first, and then it will dissipate as they go into a state of shock.

How to diagnose Amputations:

Due to the nature of the injury, amputations present as very distinct trauma, and are hard to misdiagnose. There are, however, concerns that come along with the amputation of a limb, and it is not as simple as stiching the wound. A doctor must take care to examine the wound, and see, for instance, if the major blood vessels have retracted and need to be brought to the wound opening again, or if the bone has been shattered and if those bone shards have done any additional damage to the area. If the injured party has been able to save the amputated limb, the doctor should also examine it, to determine if it will be suitable for reattachment The skin around the wound on both the body and the part may have suffered significant trauma during the injury, and it is important to see if the edges will “fit back together” as it were.

Non-surgical treatment of Amputations

Due to the very serious nature of amputation injuries, there are not, at this time, any non-surgical options for treatment.

Surgical treatment of Amputations

In all cases, Amputation must be treated with surgical intervention. In the mildest cases, as with some fingertip amputations, it may be possible for the ER doctors to close the wound if the tip is not amenable to reattachment. For more severe cases of amputation, there are two surgical options: if the severed limb is beyond repair, or lost, then the wound must be closed over with flesh and sewn shut, or if the limb is in good condition, an attempt can be made at reattaching it. In cases where the limb cannot be reattached, the wound tract must be thoroughly cleaned, and often a flap of skin is loosened from one side of the wound so that it can be folded over the other and sutured. If there is not enough skin around the wound, skin can be taken from another part of the body (usually the thigh or buttocks) and grafted onto the wound site to close it. If the wound is clean, and the limb is also clean and present, then the second option of reattachment becomes plausible, through a procedure known as Replantation.

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    Disclaimer does not offer medical advice. The information presented here is offered for informational purposes only. Read Disclaimer

    Dr. John Knight
    Dr. John Knight

    Dr. Knight is a renowned hand, wrist and upper extremity surgeon with over 25 years of experience. Dr. Knight is a Board Certified Orthopedic Surgeon and Fellowship trained. Dr Knight has appeared on CNN, The Doctors TV, Good Morning America, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Forbes, The Huffington Post, Entrepreneur, Oxygen network and more.