Amputation - traumatic
Traumatic amputation is the loss of a body part -- usually a finger, toe, arm, or leg -- that occurs as the result of an accident or injury.
Loss of a body part
If an accident or trauma results in complete amputation (the body part is totally severed), the part sometimes can be reattached, especially when proper care is taken of the severed part and stump.
In a partial amputation, some soft-tissue connection remains. Depending on the severity of the injury, the partially severed extremity may or may not be able to be reattached.
The long-term outcome for amputees has improved due to better understanding of the management of traumatic amputation, early emergency and critical care management, new surgical techniques, early rehabilitation, and new prosthetic designs. New limb replantation techniques have been moderately successful, but incomplete nerve regeneration remains a major limiting factor.
Often, the patient will have a better outcome from having a well-fitting, functional prosthesis than a nonfunctional replanted limb.
Traumatic amputations usually result directly from factory, farm, or power tool accidents or from motor vehicle accidents. Natural disasters, war, and terrorist attacks can also cause traumatic amputations.
- A body part that has been completely or partially cut off
- Bleeding (may be minimal or severe, depending on the location and nature of the injury)
- Pain (the degree of pain is not always related to the severity of the injury or the amount of bleeding)
- Crushed body tissue (badly mangled, but still partially attached by muscle, bone, tendon, or skin)
- Do NOT forget that saving the person's life is more important than saving a body part.
- Do NOT overlook other, less obvious, injuries.
- Do NOT attempt to push any part back into place.
- Do NOT decide that a body part is too small to save.
- Do NOT place a tourniquet, unless the bleeding is life threatening, as the entire limb may be harmed.
- Do NOT raise false hopes of reattachment.
Call immediately for emergency medical assistance if
If someone severs a limb, finger, toe, or other body part, you should call immediately for emergency medical help.
Use safety equipment when using factory, farm, or power tools. Wear seat belts when driving a motor vehicle. Always use good judgment and observe appropriate safety precautions.
Halluska-Handy M. Management of amputations. In: Roberts JR, Hedges JR, eds. Clinical Procedures in Emergency Medicine. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2009:chap 47.
Lyn ET, Mailhot T. Hand. In: Marx JA, ed. Rosen’s Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 7th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2009:chap 47.
Gross KR, Collier BR, Riordan WP Jr, Morris JA Jr. Wilderness trauma and surgical emergencies. In: Auerbach PS, ed. Wilderness Medicine. 6th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2011:chap 21.
Last reviewed 8/11/2012 by Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director and Director of Didactic Curriculum, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington. C. Benjamin Ma, MD, Assistant Professor, Chief, Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service, UCSF Department of Orthopaedic Surgery. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.
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