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Arm amputation

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Amputation of all or part of an arm, either as the result of a trauma or surgical intervention, is life-changing leading to dramatic differences in the things you can do. But our experience shows that – with the right support – it doesn’t have to alter the quality of your life.

It could be that someone loses an arm in a traumatic accident or as the result of an illness, such as diabetes. Other non-traumatic causes of arm amputation include meningitis; compartment syndrome; delays in diagnosing vascular disease or cancer; post-operative blood clots; or the spread of infection.

Knowing what arm amputation can mean for you and what steps you can take next can make all the difference to your future quality of life. Read on to find out more and to see what options are available to you.

What does arm amputation mean?

In its simplest terms, amputation is when a part of the body – such as an arm – is either fully or partly removed. For limbs, amputation can take place at different levels. In the case of an upper limb, these levels will determine if it will be a partial or full arm amputation:

Arm amputation at the shoulder is also known as disarticulation – a type of amputation that can also be carried out at the elbow or wrist joint. In rare or more severe cases, a person may have both of their arms amputated. This is called a double upper amputation.

What are the causes of partial or full arm amputation?

Trauma or surgery is the simple answer.

The most common causes of a traumatic arm amputation include workplace accidents involving machinery; road traffic accidents; or accidents involving defective household products.

Any accident that leads to the immediate and traumatic loss of an arm can be life-threatening. This is due to the risk of shock, blood loss and infection. But it isn’t fatal in many cases – providing the person involved gets the rapid medical attention they need.

It’s even possible for an amputated arm to be reattached following an accident. This procedure is called ‘replantation’ – but typically must happen no more than a few hours  after an accident.

A surgical arm amputation procedure can also be needed after an accident if the injury suffered is a severe one. In such cases, partial or full arm amputation will be a last resort for any doctor – and their patient. But it could be necessary to relieve pain or reduce the risk of infection or in cases in which the damage to the nerves and ligaments of the arm is such it has no functionality.

Other reasons why someone might undergo an arm amputation procedure include illnesses and medical conditions such as: diabetes; meningitis; compartment syndrome; delays in diagnosing vascular disease or cancer; post-operative blood clots; and infections.

What does an arm amputation procedure involve?

It’s usual for an arm amputation procedure to take place under general or epidural anaesthetic – depending if it’s a partial or full arm amputation. To help a person regain as much movement as possible after the amputation, the bone in the remaining part of the limb might be shortened. The muscle is then stitched to the point to give the remaining part of the limb extra strength.

To complete the procedure, the stump wound will be sealed with either stitches or staples.

No matter what leads to an amputated arm or why it’s needed, the effects of losing a limb can be devastating – especially if the cause could have been avoided and someone else is at fault.

How common is arm amputation?

Fortunately, amputations are rare and a last resort wherever possible. But, for anyone who must come to terms with living with an amputated arm, this provides little comfort or solace.

According to official arm amputation statistics for English NHS hospitals, there were nearly 3,800 finished consultant episodes (FCEs) in 2018-19. This total number of partial or full arm amputation FCEs for England was down 2% on the previous year.

Most FCEs related to hand amputations, with less than 1% resulting in full arm amputation. Data shows that male patients are more likely to lose an arm, hand or finger too – making up 78% of FCEs for the 12-month period. Meanwhile, less than half (41%) were recorded as an emergency.

The impact of arm amputation

The impact of an arm amputation on the individual cannot be overstated or underestimated. It’s hard to imagine the difficulties faced by those who lose  an arm, or – in some cases – both arms.  The loss of a limb can affect all areas of everyday life, including:

But it’s still possible to enjoy a high quality of life after arm amputation. We partner with world-leading specialists in prosthetics, care, physiotherapy, rehabilitation and accommodation. It lets us offer you an integrated medical and technological approach tailored to your exact needs.

We can also provide support and guidance in wider areas – such as case management, benefits and financial planning.  It means you receive the best possible assistance in all areas of your life after arm amputation. For more details, call us on 0370 086 8686 or send us a message.

What are the risks of an arm amputation?

Like any surgical intervention, there are risks associated with any arm amputation procedure. In the short-term, you may experience post-operative pain or bleeding – as well as “phantom limb”. This is a unique condition where you may feel pain or sensation in the amputated arm.

Thanks to the experts and support groups, we can help you overcome these risks – and longer-term concerns such as slow healing, infection or even conditions such as deep vein thrombosis.

How can Shoosmiths help with life after arm amputation?

The impact of living with an amputated arm can be tough to deal with – especially in the short-term. When it’s the result of an avoidable accident where someone else is to blame, it can feel even harder to rebuild your life after arm amputation.

But this is where the Shoosmiths' serious injury team of friendly legal experts can help.

By talking to our specialist personal injury solicitors, we’ll help you find out if you can make a claim for compensation. The amount that you could receive can be a genuine help in covering the cost of care, treatment, lost income or even an amputated arm replacement prosthetic.

Talk to us for free and in confidence. If you’re living with an amputated arm after an accident that wasn’t your fault, we’re here to help. Call 0370 086 8686 today or send us a message.

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Disclaimer

This information is for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. It is recommended that specific professional advice is sought before acting on any of the information given. © Shoosmiths LLP 2022

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