Types Of Amputation

Traumatic amputation

The category ‘traumatic amputation’ refers to the way in which the amputation has occurred i.e. it is a sudden, violent and unexpected event that causes the loss of a person’s limbs.

There are many ways in which an amputation can occur:

  • Accidents involving machinery, often in the workplace
  • Car accidents
  • Explosions or other blast injuries
  • Electric shocks
  • Becoming trapped in building or car doors

A traumatic amputation is an incredibly dangerous and often life-threatening situation, particularly through the loss of blood, but medical care and support is such that the prospects of survival have increased considerably. 

In traumatic amputations where a limb cannot be re-attached, the injured person is likely to undergo surgery to shape the bone in the remaining limb; to clean the wound (also known as debridement); and to close it. This may involve skin grafts, and could require more than one surgical procedure.

Surgical amputation

Surgical amputations have been used in medicine for thousands of years. They were once the main duty performed by surgeons, although the frequency of this has since diminished as medicine has advanced.

The most common reason for amputation in the UK is through complications with the blood vessels. In particular, this is when the blood supply to the limb has been lost and causes an extremely debilitating symptom called ‘necrosis’, which is when cells within living tissue die prematurely.

A surgical amputation can be necessary after a person has suffered from a traumatic injury, and they can be carried out as part of the immediate emergency treatment to save the person’s life or because their bones, tissues - or both - have been so badly damaged that they cannot later be reconstructed. However, surgical amputation is usually considered to be a last resort.

Once surgical amputation is underway, the medical team will aim to save as much of the injured limb as possible so that they can maximise the degree of function, which could include the future use of an artificial limb or prosthetic.

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Gemma Rowe

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