Loss of limb or amputation injuries arise when the surgical removal of all or part of a limb is necessary following an accident or, less commonly, the limb is lost in the trauma of the accident. This is usually an extremity such as an arm, leg, foot, hand, toe or finger. Particularly in the situation of losing a limb in the trauma of an accident, a person’s life will be in danger as a consequence of the resultant blood loss.
Road traffic accidents, work place accidents (particularly when using cutting saw-like machines or press machines), agricultural accidents, explosions and animal attacks are some of the many accident types that can lead to loss of limb injuries.
Treatment of Loss of Limb Injuries
The development of the science of microsurgery over the last 40 years has provided several treatment options following a traumatic amputation.
A common treatment is to surgically amputate the damaged limb and then prepare the resulting “stump” to receive a prosthetic limb. This prosthetic limb may have some level of function depending upon the individual’s circumstances.
An alternative to a prosthetic limb following surgical amputation is the transplantation of other tissue and/or plastic reconstruction. This can be particularly effective with loss of digit injuries such as fingers or toes. Although producing positive cosmetic outcomes, transplantation treatments often do not produce and feeling or sensation in the tissue because of the absence of functioning nerves.
If the amputated limb has been preserved after the accident, another possible treatment is the replantation or reconnection of the re-vascularised limb. This is a microsurgery that will hopefully restore some level of function to the reconnected limb. Whilst more common with the fingers and toes, successful outcomes have been achieved with surgeries to restore hands and arms. This procedure is more likely to be recommended in suitable cases if the replanted limb is expected to function without pain.
Finally, surgery can be performed to transplant a donated extremity, the most common being a cadaveric hand. This is an extensive and lengthy surgical procedure and involves connection of bones, tendons, arteries, nerves, veins and skin. The recipient of a transplanted extremity will require immunosuppressive drugs to prevent their nature immune system rejecting the new limb. An extensive period of therapy/rehabilitation will be necessary to ensure maximum function is attained. Many patients achieve a remarkable level of success in regaining function.