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Former CNN Correspondent Suffers Arm Amputation After a Work Accident

Manfred Ricciardelli
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Posted on Mar 20, 2014

Former CNN anchor and award-winning journalist Miles O’Brien told his followers in a blog post that an accident on the job led to the amputation of his left arm.

The reporter was on a work trip to Japan and the Philippines on February 12 when he was stacking cases of TV gear onto a cart. One of the cases fell on his left forearm.

“It hurt, but I wasn’t all 911 about it. It was painful and swollen but I figured it would be okay without any medical intervention,” O’Brien wrote.

The next evening, the pain and swelling got worse. His hotel referred him to a doctor where he learned he was likely suffering acute compartment syndrome, or increased pressure in a muscle compartment that can prevent blood from flowing.

O’Brien’s doctor recommended a fasciotomy, a surgical procedure that involves making long cuts through the muscle tissue, relieving the pressure under the muscle tissues. However, O’Brien’s blood pressure dropped during the course of his procedure, forcing the doctor to amputate his left arm just above the elbow. O’Brien was only aware of the amputation after he awoke from anesthesia.

“[The doctor] later told me it all boiled down to a choice…between a life and a limb,” O’Brien wrote.

Although many people are unaware of compartment syndrome, the condition can cause permanent injury to the muscle and nerves. If blood flow to one of the limbs is completely blocked, the muscle tissue may die, causing sepsis and requiring amputation.

The best chance of recovery for compartment syndrome patients is early detection. Patients who experience skin paleness, swelling, numbness or tingling, weakness in the limb and increasing pain should seek medical treatment immediately.

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