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To Save Or To Sever

Medical treatment for severe injuries always advances in time of war, as there are so many patients. Doctors have come a long way in saving arms or legs mangled by explosives or artillery. But saving a limb can be painful, time-consuming, and isn’t always a complete success. Is it better to go the extra mile to save an arm or a leg, or go ahead and amputate?

It’s hard to make sweeping statements about which is a better choice, limb salvage or amputation, because so much of this depends on the severity of the injury. Above knee amputees have a harder time learning to use their prosthetic than below knee amputees, for example, as do those who suffer upper body injuries. Losing a hand tends to be far more life-changing than losing a foot. Because they try to lump a lot of things together, many of these results also solidify what might seem obvious. In the words of one study: “Participants with more functional lower limbs had better quality of life than did those with less functional lower limbs regardless of whether they underwent amputation or limb-salvage surgery.”

The best decision for each patient depends on a lot of factors: the location and severity of the injury, available therapies, community and family support, the patients’s future plans, and the pain involved, among others. Motherboard looks at these factors and follows one Army captain’s story as he is confronted with that decision. -via Digg

(Image: Will Reynolds)

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