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Traumatic amputation

Loss of a body part

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.

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Amputation repair

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Considerations

If an accident or trauma results in complete amputation (the body part is totally severed), the part sometimes can be reattached, often when proper care is taken of the severed part and stump, or residual limb.

In a partial amputation, some soft-tissue connection remains. Depending on how severe the injury is, the partially severed extremity may or may not be able to be reattached.

Complications often occur when a body part is amputated. The most important of these are bleeding, shock, and infection.

Long-term outcome for an amputee depends on early emergency and critical care management. A well-fitting and functional prosthesis and retraining can speed rehabilitation.

Causes

Traumatic amputations usually result from factory, farm, power tool accidents, or from motor vehicle accidents. Natural disasters, war, and terrorist attacks can also cause traumatic amputations.

Symptoms

Symptoms may include:

First Aid

Steps to take:

Do Not

When to Contact a Medical Professional

If someone severs a limb, finger, toe, or other body part, you should call right away for emergency medical help.

Prevention

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.

Related Information

Bleeding
Shock
Cuts and puncture wounds
Leg or foot amputation
Foot amputation - discharge
Leg amputation - discharge

References

American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Fingertip injuries and amputations. orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/diseases--conditions/fingertip-injuries-and-amputations. Updated July 2016. Accessed October 9, 2020.

Rose E. Management of amputations. In: Roberts JR, Custalow CB, Thomsen TW, eds. Roberts & Hedges' Clinical Procedures in Emergency Medicine and Acute Care. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 47.

Switzer JA, Bovard RS, Quinn RH. Wilderness orthopedics. In: Auerbach PS, Cushing TA, Harris NS, eds. Auerbach's Wilderness Medicine. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2017:chap 22.

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Review Date: 7/25/2020  

Reviewed By: C. Benjamin Ma, MD, Professor, Chief, Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service, UCSF Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, San Francisco, CA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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