Field amputation: Response planning and legal considerations inspired by three separate amputations


  • Alexander Raines , MD
  • Jason Lees , MD
  • William Fry , MD
  • Aaron Parks , JD
  • David Tuggle , MD



trauma, mass casualty, field amputation, disaster, dismemberment, Good Samaritan


Background: Surgical procedures in the field are occasionally required as life-saving measures. Few centers have a planned infrastructure for field physician support. Focused efforts are needed to create teams that can meet such needs. Additionally, certain legal issues surrounding these efforts should be considered. Three cases of field dismemberment inspired this call for preparation.
Methods: In one case, an earthquake caused the collapse of a bridge, entrapping a child within a car. A through-knee amputation was required to free the patient with local anesthetic only. The second case was the result of a truck bomb causing the collapse of a building whereby a victim was trapped by a pillar. After retrieval of supplies from a local hospital, a through-knee amputation was performed. The third case involved a young man whose arm became entangled in an oil derrick. This patient was sedated and intubated in an erect position and the arm was amputated.
Results: Fortunately, each of these victims survived. However, the care these patients received was unplanned and had the potential for failure. The authors feel that disaster teams, including a surgeon, should be identified in advance as responders to a disaster on short notice. Legal issues including statespecific Good Samaritan laws and financial support systems must also be considered.
Conclusion: As hospitals and trauma systems prepare for disaster situations, they should consider the eventuality of field dismemberment. This involves identifying a team, including a surgeon, and devising an infrastructure allowing rapid response capabilities, including surgical procedures in the field.

Author Biographies

Alexander Raines , MD

Department of Surgery, Oklahoma University Health Sciences Center, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

Jason Lees , MD

Department of Surgery, Oklahoma University Health Sciences Center, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

William Fry , MD

Department of Surgery, University of South Carolina, Columbia, South Carolina.

Aaron Parks , JD

Attorneys at Law, Rubenstein & Pitts, PLLC, Edmond, Oklahoma.

David Tuggle , MD

Department of Surgery, Section of Pediatric Surgery, Oklahoma University Health Sciences Center, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.


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How to Cite

Raines , MD, A., J. Lees , MD, W. Fry , MD, A. Parks , JD, and D. Tuggle , MD. “Field Amputation: Response Planning and Legal Considerations Inspired by Three Separate Amputations”. American Journal of Disaster Medicine, vol. 9, no. 1, Jan. 2014, pp. 53-58, doi:10.5055/ajdm.2014.0141.



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