Approximately 185,000 amputations occur in the United States each year. Most amputations are the result of a chronic health condition, like diabetes or peripheral artery disease (PAD), while many others are caused by serious accidents. In the United States, African‐Americans are up to four times more likely to have an amputation than white Americans.
Losing a limb forever changes the life of the person who suffers the loss and can have a profound emotional and financial effect on the rest of the family, as well. This makes it all the more tragic when an amputation is caused by a medical mistake or by neglect and abuse that occurs in a nursing home or assisted living facility.
Increased Amputation Risks for Diabetics and Patients with Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD)
Improperly controlled diabetes is a major cause of foot and leg amputations. High blood sugar can cause nerve damage, also known as neuropathy, which causes the feet to lose feeling. Because patients with peripheral neuropathy cannot feel pain, heat and cold, they may sustain a foot injury without being aware until the skin becomes severely damaged. If left untreated, ulcers can form and become infected to the point where the foot cannot be saved. It is critically important that diabetic patients are monitored regularly by their primary care doctors to make sure their blood sugar levels are maintained at a safe level. Regular check-ups by podiatrists are also recommended for those with diabetes.
Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD)
Peripheral artery disease (PAD), which is similar to coronary artery disease (CAD), is a narrowing of the peripheral arteries to the legs, stomach, arms, and head. It occurs most often in the arteries of the legs. Both PAD and CAD are caused by atherosclerosis that narrows and blocks arteries in various critical regions of the body.
While the symptoms of PAD are often mistaken for other conditions, the most common signs involving the lower extremities are cramping, pain or tiredness in the leg or hip muscles while walking or climbing stairs. This is caused by a build-up of fatty deposits in the arteries that restricts the flow of blood to the muscles. The blood flow must be restored as quickly as possible to prevent atrophy, ulcers, sores and serious infection.
If PAD is not treated, it can lead to gangrene and subsequent amputation.
People who smoke, have diabetes, high blood pressure or high cholesterol are at an increased risk for PAD. The risk also increases with age.
Potential Side Effects from Amputations
Even when an amputation is necessary to save the patient’s life, other body parts or to prevent a disease from spreading, it is a very serious procedure that should never be performed without exploring all other medical options.
Even under the most optimal conditions, there are several potential side effects to any amputation – medical, financial, social and emotional. Some of these include:
- Poor wound healing
- Poor wound cover
- Chronic neuroma-related pain and/or tenderness
- Infection that may require further treatment or additional surgery
- Stiffness that impairs movement and mobility
- Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD), also known as Chronic Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS)
- Difficulty with prosthetics, including poor fit or function
- Loss of function that could affect employment
- Phantom Limb Pain, a condition where people who have gone through amputations experience pain sensation where the missing limb used to be
- Loss of muscle tone and tissue
- Depression, social anxiety or PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder)
Medical Mistakes that can Cause wrongful amputation
There are a variety of situations where medical negligence can cause an amputation to be performed that would not have been necessary with proper care. Some examples are:
- Failure to prevent or monitor blood clots that form during or immediately after surgery can lead to thrombosis, which could require amputation if left untreated.
- Failure to diagnose and treat an aneurysm in a timely manner could result in the need to amputate a limb.
- Infections that are undiagnosed or improperly treated can cause severe tissue damage that could require amputation.
- Errors in recording information on patient charts or omission of important information could result in an otherwise unnecessary amputation.
- Physician error due to distraction or misinformation in a patient’s chart could lead to the removal of the wrong limb or body part.
- Failure to monitor and control diabetes can result in foot and leg amputations that might have been prevented with proper medical care.
- Failure to diagnose and treat foot injuries promptly can result in a gangrenous condition that requires amputation
- Misinterpretation of X-rays, lab work or other test results can lead to an incorrect diagnosis or a delay in diagnosing a serious disease or condition such as diabetes, peripheral artery disease or an infection.
- Incorrect treatment or no treatment at all after a medical condition is diagnosed can lead to amputation, especially in cases of serious infections or diabetes.
If you or a loved one has undergone an amputation that was caused by the negligence of a physician, hospital, nursing home or other medical provider or facility, contact us immediately for a free consultation. Our team of experienced and knowledgeable medical malpractice lawyers are ready to help you.