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When is an amputation necessary and what are some complications?

Sometimes, a person in Atlanta suffers such a severe injury or illness that they need a limb amputated. There are many reasons why people get amputations. For those in the military, a combat injury could result in an amputation. A person may also need an amputation if they were in a serious car crash. Other reasons for amputation include cancer, infections, burns, diabetes and frostbite. In the end, though, amputations become necessary when there is insufficient blood flow to a person's limbs, resulting in infection and tissue death.

When an amputation is performed, the person will receive either spinal anesthesia or general anesthesia. The surgeon will look for a pulse near the joint of the limb that is to be amputated. The surgeon will also note the color of the person's skin at that site, as well as the skin's temperature. The pain in the affected limb, when contrasted to the feeling in the non-affected limb, will also be noted.

When a limb is amputated, the surgeon will attempt to preserve healthy skin to cover up the stump that remains. When a surgeon immediately covers the person's amputation with this skin, it is known as a closed amputation.

Otherwise, the amputation is known as an open amputation. In an open amputation, any of the remaining tissue that is infected will be cleaned up, and once it is determined that the tissue surrounding the person's stump is no longer infected, it will be covered by the person's healthy skin.

There are a number of complications that may arise from an amputation. The person's joint could become deformed. A blood clot called a "hematoma" can develop under the person's skin. The wound could open or become infected. More tissue can die and blood clots could form in either the person's remaining limb or lungs. In addition, a person may suffer depression or experience phantom pain in the remaining limb.

It can take a long time to recover from an amputation. A person will need to relearn basic life skills, depending on the amputated limb. This could require extensive therapy. Sometimes, it becomes difficult, if not impossible, to effectively move for a year or more. When this happens, a person with an amputation may want to consider seeking Social Security Disability benefits.

Source: HopkinsMedicine.org, "Amputation," accessed on May 7, 2017

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