EMS Tips

EMS Tips – Form a Prehospital Field Amputation Team

Plano, Texas firefighters summoned their recently formed Field Amputation Team when a worker’s leg became trapped in a piece of ditch digging machinery.

“Frisco firefighters reached Palma just five minutes after the accident, but they couldn’t free him. His leg would need to be amputated right there, amid the dirt and rocks.

Luckily, there was a plan for that.”Pre-planning can save valuable time (and tissue) and keeps paramedics and surgeons from scrambling to come up with a plan. What’s involved in a pre-plan? Likely these components:

  • A surgeon (and likely an anesthesiologist) willing to leave the hospital
  • Transport plan for the team
  • Surgical tools
  • Ketamine
  • Tourniquet(s)
  • Blood products
  • Extrication tools and techniques

The University of Utah Hospital stoff up an emergency amputation team in 2017. Pennsylvania responders brought a surgical team to amputate a driver’s leg in 2014.

Every surgeon, EMT, paramedic and firefighter should read these account of field amputation that was performed on an ice-covered interstate in super rural Idaho.

Exclusive: Field amputation difference between life and death

Prehospital field amputation
A field amputation was necessary to remove the drive of a semi after a collision with a log hauler on a remote stretch of I-90 in north Idaho. (Courtesy of Kootenai Fire and Rescue)

This won’t happen in our service area – Wrong!

Anywhere there is heavy machinery, construction or fast moving vehicles a limb can become trapped. Unless, of course, you work in an area that’s not subject to the laws of physics.



By Greg Friese

Greg Friese, Stevens Point, Wisconsin, is an author, educator, paramedic, and marathon runner.

Greg was the co-host of the award winning EMSEduCast podcast, the only podcast by and for EMS educators. Greg has written for,, Wilderness Medical Associates, JEMS Magazine, and EMS World Magazine, and the NAEMSE Educator Newsletter.