Surgeons Faced Waves of Amputations

Surgeons often have to decide whether to amputate a limb, but rarely do they have to decide on dozens of cases at once. That was the scene after Monday’s bombings at the Boston Marathon, when surgeons at local hospitals had to decide, quickly and over and over, whether or not to take limbs with shattered bones, shredded tissues, and embedded nails. “It’s extremely hard to make that decision … we often get two surgeons to agree,” said Dr. Tracy Dechert, a trauma surgeon. Most of the victims were saved because the bomb hit their legs rather than their upper body, and tourniquets were able to stop bleeding; still, nine had legs or feet amputated. A hospital chaplain said surgeons saw “more trauma than most ever see in a lifetime, more sadness, more loss.”