"what is an acute amputation?"
Acute Stage: The hours immediately after a traumatic amputation injury.
“My loved one just suffered a traumatic amputation, what do I do?”
Recognize you are already doing what you need to do by seeking reliable and relevant information. The next hours and days are critical and can affect your loved one’s recovery. There are issues that must be addressed immediately and health concerns that many people aren’t even aware of until being thrust into the world of traumatic amputations.
“We didn’t get a say in which hospital my loved one was brought to. How do I know if the hospital is equipped to handle a traumatic amputation?”
Provided there are no additional complications, the main goal of the emergency response team that arrived on the scene of the accident is to get the injured person to a Level I Trauma Center. A Level I Trauma Center is more than just an average emergency room. They meet criteria set forth by various governing agencies and typically house a trained trauma team, operating suite, imaging and laboratory facilities, trauma intensive care units, etc. 24 hours a day. They are able to handle the needs of both traumatically injured adult and pediatric patients.
“What will be done to treat my loved one at the hospital?”
Doctors will begin by treating any life threatening complications that may have occurred as a result of a traumatic amputation. Traumatic amputee survivors are at high risk of severe blood loss and shock. So it is of upmost importance that your loved one’s vital signs are checked and stable.
Once complications have been checked and treated, the emergency team will focus its’ attention on the injured area. Whether it is a partial or complete amputation, the physicians will have to determine if saving the limb is a feasible option. At this point your loved one’s future will head in one of two directions:
Replantation: If enough tissue is salvaged from the injured area, the surgeon will attach the severed limb by reconnecting the arteries, nerves, muscles, veins and tissue. This is done on the basis that the limb will function in the future.
Amputation: In some cases the tissue has been damaged beyond repair. When this occurs, the surgeon will create a stump to fit prosthesis.
“What questions should I be asking when the doctor comes out to speak with our family?”
It is important to ask straightforward questions when the doctor gets a chance to speak with you. Knowing the right questions to ask at this point is crucial to understanding the condition of your loved one.
- • Was there a substantial amount of blood lost?
- • Did he/she go into shock?
- • Will the limb be salvaged?
- • Is there an infection?
“What are the chances of overcoming a traumatic amputation?”
A traumatic amputation is life-changing and the risk associated with it increases with age. However, this is, by no means, a predetermining factor. According to the Catastrophic Injury Resource Center, there are 1.7 million amputees living in the United States. With the proper treatment the chances of survival are optimistic.
“How long will recovery take?”
It may put your mind at ease to know that, provided there are no complications, traumatic amputations usually call for the shortest recovery period because patients usually don’t have pre-existing circulation conditions or chronic illnesses. However, this is still a tough question to answer because no single recovery process is the same.
For initial treatment, patients will generally stay in the hospital for 5-14 days. The type of amputation, the patient’s pain tolerance, health and reaction to rehabilitation greatly influence the recovery period. The rehabilitation process begins immediately after surgery to encourage movement and use of the amputated area. However, this time period is truly unique to the patient and injury.
“What should I expect when I do finally get to see my loved one?”
Whether your loved one has suffered a complete or partial traumatic amputation, he or she will have to undergo surgery. In either scenario, your loved one will be surrounded by a lot of medical equipment and the injured area will likely be covered in dressings. Chances are you aren’t used to this environment and your initial reaction may be to panic. But, you must keep in mind, all of the equipment and treatment is there to help your loved one.
It is now more than ever that you, as a caretaker, must be strong. Your loved one will depend on you and will easily feed off of your emotions. A positive attitude and acceptance from an amputee’s friends and families will provide a strong foundation for the rehabilitation process.
“What do I do next?”
Get educated about everything on traumatic amputations. This type of injury affects every facet of life: physical, emotional, financial, legal, etc. Staying informed and learning all you can will do a number of things. It will keep you from being surprised and caught off guard by situations that are bound to arise. It will give you back some control in the midst of the crisis. It will also ensure that you make informed decisions regarding the care of your loved one that could have potentially life-long effects.