Tag Archives: amputation

Best of AAST 2023 #2: Immediate Postoperative Prosthesis

Blunt vehicular trauma is the most common cause of severe lower extremity trauma, particularly motorcycle crashes. Occasionally, the injury is so severe that the limb cannot be saved, and amputation is necessary. The conventional treatment is to protect the amputation incision, provide physical therapy, and fit a prosthesis once the stump is mature. This typically takes a month or two.

Unfortunately, losing any limb has a significant psychological impact on our patients’ physical and mental well-being. The concept of immediate postoperative prosthesis (IPOP) has been gaining traction in recent years in an attempt to improve early mobility and mental health among these amputees.

A group from India designed a randomized, controlled trial to compare patients undergoing IPOP after lower extremity amputation to those receiving conventional prosthetic treatment. They randomly enrolled 30 patients in each group and measured differences in quality of life, depression and anxiety, and various mobility scores.

Here are the factoids:

  • Both groups were modestly injured, with 85% having ISS < 15; this indicates that injuries were mostly limited to the extremity
  • Mangle extremity severity score was also low, indicating the incidence of vascular and severe soft tissue injury was also low
  • Quality of life scores for the physical, psychological, social, and environmental domains were significantly higher in the IPOP group
  • The Amputee Mobility Predictor score (AMP) was significantly higher after 12 weeks after IPOP
  • The Trinity Amputee Prosthesis Experiences Scales (TAPES) for psychosocial, activity restriction, and prosthetic satisfaction domains were significantly better in the IPOP group
  • The physical screening tests for directional control and overall stability were also significantly higher in IPOP patients

The authors concluded that IPOP improves quality of life, decreases depression and anxiety, and increases mobility in amputees compared to standard therapy.

Bottom line: It is common sense that allowing early mobility would help our patients, both physically and mentally. This paper makes it clear that IPOP makes a very real difference. This small study bears additional confirmatory work, but given the level of significance found, the concept will likely be proven.

It does take some extra effort to apply a well-fitted early prosthesis. This typically takes place in the OR. The prosthesis must be easy to remove for wound care and protect the stump from injury while weight-bearing.  It is best done by an orthopedic surgeon and skilled prosthetist at the end of the amputation procedure. 

Hopefully, this concept will catch on to help patients with this potentially devastating procedure recover more quickly and retain their mental health.

Reference: RCT to study the effect of immediate post-operative prosthesis vs. conventional prosthesis on balance & QOL in BK amputees following trauma. AAST 2023, Plenary paper #21.

September Trauma MedEd Is Here! Topic: Field Amputation

Welcome to the current newsletter. This one tells you everything you always wanted to know about field amputation (and dismemberment). Here’s the scoop on what’s inside:

  • Indications
  • Who can perform it?
  • What about logistics
  • Equipment
  • Blow by blow about the procedure itself
  • Supplemental resources, include policies, equipment list, and bibliography

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July Trauma MedEd Newsletter Topic: Field Amputation

This is probably one of the worst calls a trauma surgeon can get: “Please dispatch a surgeon to the scene. We need a field amputation to extricate the patient.”

For trauma professionals in any discipline, this is probably a once in a career event. And for that reason, there is likely to be a lot of confusion.

The next newsletter will cover this topic in detail. Topics include:

  • Statistics on how often field amputation is needed
  • Indications for the procedure
  • Logistics: getting to the scene and staying safe
  • Essential equipment
  • Sample policies
  • And more!

If you haven’t already, subscribe to my Trauma MedEd newsletter so you can get this edition when it’s released on September 1. Otherwise, it will be released here later in the month.

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Field Amputation for Trauma, Part 4

We’ve covered all the prep for field amputation over the past 3 days. Now, it’s time to do it. What equipment is needed? There are two principles: figure it all out in advance, and keep it simple.

It is crucial that the trauma program design and assemble equipment and drug packs in advance, otherwise critical equipment may not make it to the field. The pack needs to be conveniently located, have fresh instruments and batteries for the equipment, and should have essential anesthetics included. A sample list is available here, and I encourage you to modify it to suit your needs.

Paralytics, sedatives and analgesics are essential. I prefer vecuronium, midazolam and fentanyl, but there are many other choices. I would discourage the use of propofol because it is difficult to titrate outside the hospital and may contribute to hypotension.

The patient must be intubated prior to starting the procedure. This airway may be difficult due to patient positioning, so be prepared to perform a surgical airway. Finally, don’t assume that your patient will be nicely positioned supine. Rescue workers may need to support the patient (or you) if he or she is in an awkward position.

Finally, don’t assume that you will accompany the patient (and possibly their limb) back to the hospital. Based on the specific aircraft used, there may not be room available. You may return by ground transportation or another aircraft. That’s why your backup plan needs to be well thought out!


Field Amputation for Trauma, Part 3

We’ve discussed the numbers behind and indications for performing field amputation for trauma. Now it’s time to look at the logistics. There are two main considerations here: getting to the scene, and staying safe. The following presumes that the procedure will be done by a physician who is based at the trauma center. It will be different if performed by other trauma professionals.

Getting there includes an obvious problem: what happens when the physician leaves the hospital? During the daytime, others may be available, although they may have other responsibilities to keep them busy. At night it becomes more of an issue, as they may be the only surgeon or ED physician available for the hospital. And once involved in the field amputation process, they may be unavailable for hours.

The easiest solution is to utilize the backup trauma surgeon. All Level I and II centers must have one. There are two possibilities here: the in-house trauma surgeon leaves and the backup proceeds to the hospital for coverage (if in-house), or the backup surgeon is transported leaving the on-call surgeon to manage as usual.

The choice is up to the trauma center, but this is an issue that needs to be thought out in advance. The best solution takes geography into consideration. Since most transports to the scene will be made by helicopter, it is easier to use the trauma center’s helipad to pick up the on-call surgeon. If an in-house surgeon is not used, consideration must be given to the nearest safe landing zone and this may mean that an out-of-house surgeon would have to travel to the hospital for pick-up.

Once on scene, the physician must ascertain that the area of the incident is safe. This is important for the well being of the patient, the rescue crews and the patient. If the scene cannot be made safe, it is not possible to render care, even if the patient is in grave trouble.

Bottom line: Each trauma program must think through these details in advance and develop a policy for who goes to the scene and how they get there. And safety for all is of paramount importance.

Tomorrow I’ll discuss equipment and drugs needed for this procedure.