When a body part is partially or completely amputated, quick first aid action is required to help ensure the best possible repair. Tissue can be preserved for up to 18 hours if properly cared for; however, reattachment has the best chance of being successful if done within 4 to 6 hours but can be done up to 24 hours after amputation. Follow these first aid instructions for the amputated body part if you ever encounter an amputation:
- Do not make the judgment that the body part is too small or too damaged to be reattached.
- Do not throw away any body part, no matter how small.
- Do not separate amputated part from victim.
- Do not place amputated part directly on ice or in water.
- Do not use dry ice to preserve a severed body part.
Most importantly administer first aid to the patient:
- Check for responsiveness and breathing.
- Give first aid for bleeding.
- Monitor and treat for shock if present.
- Care for amputated part(s): Clean amputated part, if necessary, with sterile or clean water, then cover and wrap in sterile dressing. Place in a sealed plastic bag. Place bag in another container with chilled or ice water. Label with victim's name.
- Keep the amputated part with the victim at all times.
More Answers from Kathleen Handal, MD