If you understand the amputation process, how it might affect your life, and the support that is available, it can make all the difference to your future quality of life. Read on to find out more and to see what your options are.
What is hand amputation
Hand amputation is the total or partial loss of your hand and/or finger(s). There are two main levels at which the amputation occurs:
- Wrist disarticulation
- Partial hand amputation
In a wrist disarticulation, the entire hand below the wrist will be removed. The different types of partial hand amputation can involve the loss of a fingertip, finger, thumb or portion of the hand. In rare instances, a person may experience bilateral hand amputation. This is when someone loses both hands (or parts of the hands).
The level at which an amputation occurs impacts the amputee’s future needs, such as the type of prosthetic, aids and equipment and the extent of care and assistance required.
What are the causes of hand amputation?
An amputation may occur because of a traumatic injury or following surgical intervention.
Accidents are the most common cause of traumatic amputations and can involve the immediate separation of a hand or parts of it. The level of the amputation suffered in an accident may not be the final extent of the amputation. If the amputee suffers tissue damage this may lead to further removal by surgery. In some cases, the accident may not result in an immediate amputation. There may be an attempt to save the hand or fingers, but if the injuries do not heal or are so extensive the part affected cannot be saved this may result in an early and sometimes lifesaving post-accident amputation.
The most common causes of a traumatic hand amputation include:
- an accident at work, usually involving machinery
- a road traffic accident
- An accident involving defective household products.
A traumatic amputation can have serious consequences in the short term. It comes with the risk of shock, blood loss or infection. But rapid medical treatment can ensure it doesn’t end up being fatal. In some cases, it is even possible to re-attach a hand or finger after an accident using a procedure known as replantation, but this needs to happen within the first few hours.
Non traumatic causes of amputation include illnesses and medical conditions such as: diabetes; meningitis; compartment syndrome; delays in diagnosing vascular disease or cancer; post-operative blood clots; and infections.
Individuals who have been injured in accidents but initially did not require an amputation because there was hope the hand could be saved, may, as a last resort after many years of treatment and surgical interventions, opt for a voluntary amputation. This may be to relieve chronic pain, reduce the risk of infection or because nerve and ligaments damage has destroyed or severely impaired functionality.
For more information read our article about the common causes of amputation.
What does hand amputation surgery involve?
If you need to undergo hand amputation surgery, it’ll be done either under general (where you are unconscious), regional or local anaesthetic. The amputation wound is closed using the skin. In some cases, bones or tendons may need to be shortened so that there is enough soft tissue to cover the bone. In some cases, additional surgery may be needed in order to help you get the most function possible after losing all or part of the hand.
How common is hand amputation?
Hand amputations are rare enough in the grand scheme of things. But this provides little comfort to those who lose all or part of a hand. And the numbers may be higher than you think.
The official hand amputation statistics for finished consultant episodes (FCEs) for English NHS hospitals over the last three years are provide interesting reading. An FCE means a continuous period of admitted patient care under one consultant and within one healthcare provider.
In 2021-2022 there were 3,619 FCEs relating to the amputation of wrist or hand. By far the most common cases of amputation seen in English NHS hospitals involve the loss of a single finger. The traumatic or surgical removal of an entire hand accounted for less than 1% of FCEs and admissions across the 12 months.
What is the impact of a hand amputation?
We use our hands, thumbs and fingers continuously for a wide range of tasks. As we’re able to oppose the thumb to all four fingers, we can perform delicate and sensitive actions – as well as carrying out strong gripping and lifting functions.
We often use our thumbs, fingers and palms together. This is why losing even just one finger – or indeed a fingertip amputation – can have a significant effect on your day-to-day life including:
- Dressing and personal hygiene
- Eating and drinking
- Self-confidence and emotional wellbeing
- Work tasks e.g. typing
- Sport and exercise
It is still possible to enjoy a high quality of life after a full or partial hand amputation, but there will be a period of adjustment and rehabilitation. We partner with world-leading specialists in prosthetics, care, physiotherapy, rehabilitation and accommodation. This places us in a good position to help you during this period of adjustment by ensuring you are aware of the latest medical and technological advances so that you can make choices to improve aspects of your new life. We will also put you in touch with the right people so that we can build a support network tailored to your exact needs.
We can also provide guidance when it comes to deciding whether to engage the services of a Case Manager to help with care and assistance, aids and equipment and understanding whether you are entitled to state benefits.
What are the consequences of hand amputation?
For people who lose a hand or finger(s), it’s possible you’ll experience pain or bleeding after the operation. You may also suffer “phantom limb” – where you may still have sensation in the part of the body removed.
You may also need to deal with:
- Ongoing emotional distress and feelings of loss
- Pain and soreness in the remaining part of the hand
- The possible need for revision surgery
We can put you in touch with experts and support groups to help you understand, prepare and overcome these issues – and longer-term concerns such as slow healing, infection or even conditions like deep vein thrombosis.
How can Shoosmiths help?
Our team of serious injury solicitors have many years of experience dealing with amputation claims. If your amputation was caused by either an accident that was not your fault, or the negligent treatment you received from a health professional, we can investigate your circumstances to establish whether you can make a claim for compensation. We can also assist with your rehabilitation and recovery. Any compensation you receive will help cover the cost of any care, ongoing treatment, lost income or even an arm replacement prosthetic.
Talk to us for free and in confidence. Call 0808 301 7915 today or send us a message.
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 2023