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Can medical negligence lead to amputation?
Amputation is a life-changing injury and one that involves a considerable period of readjustment. There are several factors which can lead to the loss of a limb, one of which is unfortunately medical negligence.
There are numerous ways in which negligent medical treatment could lead to amputation of a limb, some of which we’ve outlined here.
If the blood supply to a limb is seriously compromised, medical staff must deal with the situation. This can occur without medical negligence being the cause, for example following Compartment Syndrome. However it’s important that it’s recognised quickly.
Compartment Syndrome is a painful and potentially serious condition. It’s caused by bleeding or swelling within an enclosed bundle of muscles (known as a muscle ‘compartment’) and can occur after a crush injury or fracture or following surgery to a limb, such as a knee replacement.
A failure to diagnose Compartment Syndrome promptly can mean that the tissue is damaged and amputation may be needed to avoid the limb becoming gangrenous.
Blood supply to a limb can also be compromised if there is an aneurysm in a limb. An aneurysm is a widening in an artery that if left untreated can become blocked with a clot. This can cause the tissues in the lower leg to be deprived of oxygen and nutrients resulting in amputation.
When shock occurs after sepsis the medication given to raise blood pressure constricts the small blood vessels sometimes to the extent that the blood supply to the extremities, such as fingers and toes, is lost resulting in the need to amputate them. Sepsis is most likely to occur following abdominal, kidney and blood stream infections or meningitis.
Amputation may also result from direct infection in a limb which is inadequately treated. Diabetics are at increased risk of infection, so substandard treatment and advice can result in the amputation of a limb.