Quick Facts on Amputation

Squeamish? Then read no further! Because for today’s Wednesday Wisdom blog, we’re delving into the history of amputation!

A Brief History

“Amputate” comes from the Latin words for “to cut away” and “to prune.” In the early days, it was also referred to as “dismemberment,” but thankfully, the medical community prefers the much-less-grotesque term of “amputation” now.

The first amputation dates all the way back to 484 B.C.E., when a Persian soldier cut off his own foot and replaced it with a wooden one. While discoveries of ancient artificial limbs, made of cooper, wood, and iron suggest that amputation has been around for a while, it wasn’t considered an effective procedure until 1529 with the invention of the tourniquet, which made the process easier and safer. During the American Civil War, amputation became more prominent, though 1 in 4 patients died following a battlefield amputation. This isn’t surprising, considering that the 1860’s process involved chloroform, saws, and unsanitary environments.

Today, nearly 2 million amputees live in the United States, and 185,000 amputations occur every year. The history is strange and disturbing, but with recent medical developments, amputation is a life-changing but beneficial procedure for many people, especially accidents victims.

Reasons for Amputation

When an amputation occurs at the scene of an accident, it is a traumatic amputation. These situations frequently arise from car or motorcycle accidents, or from on-the-job accidents, particularly those involving heavy or moving machinery. They can also result from medical malpractice, like a hospital-acquired infection.

However, most are the result of medical issues, including:

  • Cancer
  • Thickening nerve tissue
  • Frostbite
  • Circulatory diseases
  • Diabetes
  • Gangrene

How Does It Work?

During an amputation, the patient goes under anesthesia. The surgeon cuts away any damaged tissue, and is careful to leave any healthy or undamaged tissue areas untouched. The process also involves removing any crushed bones and smoothing uneven areas of bone, sealing off blood vessels and nerves, and cutting and shaping the muscle so that the patient can use a prosthetic limb, if necessary.

After an amputation, a patient has a lot to adjust to. Amputees typically go through physical therapy following their surgery, and some begin to practice using a prosthetic limb as soon as ten days after surgery. Many people struggle with grief and pain over their lost limb, and some experience phantom limb syndrome, which is when they feel intense pain in the area of the missing limb. Getting used to an artificial limb and new body image takes a great amount of work for many patients, and can be an incredibly stressful and challenging time. Amputation can also be a very expensive process, as the costs for the surgery and prosthetics can be extensive.

Following an amputation, getting back to a normal life is difficult, but of course, not impossible. With the right support team, it is completely possible to live a fulfilling life after an amputation.


The attorneys at Perenich, Caulfield, Avril & Noyes represent those involved in car accidents, motorcycle accidents, bicycle accidents, pedestrian accidents, and other types of personal injury matters. Our firm is one of the oldest personal injury law firms in Tampa Bay. There are no attorneys’ fees or costs unless we prevail for you. Call our office 24 hours a day at 727-796-8282 or simply click here to schedule a free case consultation.

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