Yesterday I discussed how uncommon field amputation is, despite all the potential drama. Today, I’ll review the indications for performing it.
There are basically four indications, two absolute and two relative:
- Absolute #1: entrapped extremity with a lengthy extrication and a physiologically impaired patient who does not respond to fluids. In this case, there is occult blood loss into other areas that is killing your patient and they need to get out quickly for definitive management.
- Absolute #2: entrapped extremity with a lengthy extrication and an unstable physical environment. Examples include entrapment in a structurally damaged building or a vehicle in danger of falling.
- Relative #1: entrapped extremity with a lengthy extrication in a patient who was initially hypotensive but responded to IV fluids. It is possible to wait for additional extrication efforts, but vital signs must be monitored closely. At the first sign of recurrent hypotension, it’s time to amputate.
- Relative #2: entrapped extremity and physiologically normal, but extrication may take many hours or may be impossible. Once again, there is time to wait and let rescue workers continue their efforts. However, the more time that passes, the less likely the extremity will ultimately be functional.
Obviously a lot of thought and judgment goes into making the decision amputate. It is helpful to have another physician to discuss the facts with, but as the treating surgeon, the ultimate decision is yours.
Tomorrow, I’ll talk about the logistics of getting to the scene of the potential field amputation.