by Patricia Griffin Kellicker, BSN
An amputation is a surgery to remove a body part. It is removed because of disease or damage.
Reasons for Procedure TOP
An amputation is typically done for one of the following reasons:
Possible Complications TOP
If you are planning to have an amputation, your doctor will review a list of possible complications, which may include:
Before your procedure, talk to your doctor about ways to manage factors that may increase your risk of complications such as:
What to Expect TOP
Prior to Procedure
Your amputation may be planned. In this case, your doctor will review with you how it is done and what to expect. An emergency amputation may need to be done. This can happen because of trauma or life-threatening infection. In this case, you may not have this preparation.
Depending on the injury and location, your doctor may do some of the following before your surgery:
Leading up to your surgery:
The anesthesia used will depend on the body part operated on. You may receive:
Description of Procedure TOP
An incision will be made into the skin of the affected limb or limb part. If needed, the muscles will also be cut. Blood vessels will be tied off or sealed to prevent bleeding. The bone will then be cut through. The diseased or damaged body part will be removed.
Muscle will be pulled over the bone. It will be sutured in place there. The remaining skin will be pulled over the muscle. The skin will be sewn to form a stump. A sterile dressing will be placed over the incision.
If severe infection is involved, the incision may be left open to heal.
How Long Will It Take? TOP
This procedure can take 20 minutes to several hours. The length will depend on the type of amputation being done and your overall health.
How Much Will It Hurt? TOP
Anesthesia will prevent pain during surgery. Pain and discomfort after the procedure can be managed with medications.
Average Hospital Stay TOP
Your hospital stay will depend on the type of amputation you had. Typically:
Your doctor may choose to keep you longer if complications arise.
Post-procedure Care TOP
At the Hospital
After surgery, you can expect some of the following:
During your stay, the hospital staff will take steps to reduce your chance of infection, such as:
There are also steps you can take to reduce your chance of infection, such as:
Stitches will be removed within a few weeks of surgery. When you return home, do the following to help ensure a smooth recovery:
Call Your Doctor TOP
Call your doctor if any of these occur:
If you think you have emergency, call for emergency medical services right away.
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
Amputee Coalition of America
The Canadian Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Association
Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation
Bone sarcoma in the upper extremity: treatment options using limb salvage or amputation. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at:
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Updated October 2007. Accessed December 5, 2014.
Fingertip injuries/amputations. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at:
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Updated August 2011. Accessed December 5, 2014.
Last reviewed December 2014 by Michael Woods, MD
Last Updated: 12/20/2014
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