What is amputation?

Amputation is the surgical removal of part of the body, for example, amputation of a leg or arm.

Why is it necessary?

There are various reasons why an amputation may be necessary.  Sometimes the limb will have become infected with dangerous bacteria, as in the case of necrotising fasciitis, and amputation is needed to halt the spread of that infection.  Other causes include loss of blood supply to that part of the body causing the tissue to die (gangrene), cancer to the skin or bone of the limb, and of course traumatic injury as a result of an accident.

What are the complications?

Amputation is a serious medical procedure which carries with it the potential for significant complications, including heart attack, blood clots, pneumonia and slow wound healing.  In addition, psychological problems, including post traumatic stress (PTSD) and phantom limb pain are not uncommon.

Who is at risk?

Anyone who is affected by the causes referred to above is at risk of amputation.  There are specific groups of people, however, who are more at risk and these include those that suffer from peripheral arterial disease (PAD) or from diabetes.

When can amputation be caused by negligence?

If an amputation is required it will usually be a diagnosis of last resort. The patient should be given specific guidance and counselling with regard to the need for that amputation, and the decision to go ahead is then made between the patient and their medical team.  However, in some cases, amputation may have been avoidable.  These are the cases where a delay in diagnosis of a specific condition, a failure to provide timely medication or to address infection, or even a surgical error has lead to the unnecessary or preventable removal of a limb.

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