Amputation of the Foot or Toe
(Toe Amputation; Foot Amputation)
Surgical removal of a toe, foot, or part of a foot
Reasons for Procedure
Amputation is most often done to:
- Treat infections
- Remove dead or damaged tissue due to gangrene or serious trauma
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Problems from the procedure are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Your doctor will review potential problems, like:
- Difficulty healing
- Stump pain—severe pain in the remaining tissue
- Phantom limb pain —a painful sensation that the foot or toe is still there
- Continued spread of gangrene, requiring amputation of more areas of your foot, toes, or leg
- Nerve damage
- Limp or trouble walking, depending on which toe or how much of the foot has been removed
- Contracture deformity
Before your procedure, talk to your doctor about ways to manage factors that may increase your risk of complications, such as:
What to Expect
Prior to Procedure
Before the surgery, your doctor may do some of the following:
- Blood tests
- X-ray of toe and foot
- Bone scan to see if the bone is infected
- Tests to evaluate blood circulation and help the doctor determine how much of the foot or toe needs to be amputated
Talk to the doctor about the medications you are taking. You may need to stop taking some medications up to 1 week before the procedure.
In the days leading up to your surgery:
- Arrange for a ride to and from the hospital.
- Arrange for help at home after the surgery.
- The night before, eat a light meal. Do not eat or drink anything after midnight.
- You may be asked to shower the morning of your procedure. You may be asked to use a special antibacterial soap.
Based on your surgery and general health, you may have:
Description of the Procedure
You will be given IV fluids and antibiotics. Your foot will be washed with an antibacterial solution. The surgeon will make an incision into the skin around the area. The blood vessels will be tied off or sealed with an electrical current. This will prevent bleeding. The involved bones will be removed.
The ends of the remaining bone(s) will be smoothed. The remaining skin and muscle will be pulled over the open area. It will be closed with stitches. A sterile dressing will then be placed over the incision.
If there is an active infection, tubes may be left in place to allow fluids to drain. In some cases, the skin will not be closed but will instead be packed with a moist dressing.
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Immediately After Procedure
You will be taken to a recovery room. There, you will be monitored for any negative effects from the surgery or anesthesia. You will be given pain medication. You may also receive more antibiotics.
How Long Will It Take?
How Much Will It Hurt?
Anesthesia will prevent pain during surgery. Pain and discomfort after the procedure can be managed with medications.
Average Hospital Stay
The usual length of stay is 2-7 days. Your doctor may choose to keep you longer if complications arise.
At the Hospital
- Your foot will be kept elevated.
- The remaining toes or foot will be wrapped with a bulky dressing. This will protect it from injury.
- You will be encouraged to get up and begin walking as soon as the wound allows.
- A physical therapist will likely assist you in walking at first.
You may have to restrict specific activities until you're healed. You may be advised to begin an exercise, physical therapy, or rehabilitation program. Your doctor may prescribe medications for pain or other conditions that need to be managed. Follow your doctor's instructions.
Call Your Doctor
Contact your doctor if your recovery is not progressing as expected or you develop complications, such as:
- Signs of infection, including fever and chills
- Redness, swelling, increasing pain, excessive bleeding, or any discharge from the incision site
- Chalky white or blackish appearance of foot, other toes, or leg
- Decreased sensation, numbness, or tingling in the rest of your foot, toes, or leg
- Persistent nausea or vomiting
- Pain that you cannot control with the medications you have been given
- Cough, shortness of breath, or chest pain
- Joint pain, fatigue, stiffness, rash, or other new symptoms
If you think you have an emergency, call for emergency medical services right away.
American Diabetes Association
Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
Canadian Diabetes Association
The Canadian Orthopaedic Association
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Frykberg RG. Diabetic foot ulcers: pathogenesis and management. Am Fam Physician. 2002;66(9):1655-1663.
Parrett B, Pribaz J, Matros E, et al. Risk analysis for the reverse sural fasciocutaneous flap in distal leg reconstruction.. Plast Reconstr Surg. 2009;123(5):1499-1504
Last reviewed November 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Warren A. Bodine, DO, CAQSM Last Updated: 12/20/2014