Amputation is surgery to remove a body part.
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Reasons for Procedure
An amputation may be done for:
- Poor blood flow that cannot be fixed
- Severe infection
- Trauma or injury
- Problems at birth, such as a body part that has not formed properly
Problems are rare, but all procedures have some risk. The doctor will go over some problems that could happen, such as:
- Excess bleeding
- Problems from anesthesia, such as wheezing or sore throat
- Blood clots
- Skin breakdown and swelling of the remaining limb
- Poor healing that may result in further amputation
- Feeling pain in the amputated body part or feeling that it is still there
Things that may raise the risk of problems are:
What to Expect
Prior to Procedure
The surgical team may meet with you to talk about:
- Anesthesia options
- Any allergies you may have
- Current medicines, herbs, and supplements that you take and whether you need to stop taking them before surgery
- Fasting before surgery, such as avoiding food or drink after midnight the night before
- Whether you need a ride to and from surgery
- Tests that will need to be done before surgery, such as images
The anesthesia used will depend on the body part being removed. The doctor may give:
Description of Procedure
An incision will be made into the skin of the limb or limb part. If needed, the muscles will also be cut. Blood vessels will be tied off or sealed to stop them from bleeding. The bone will then be cut through. The body part will be removed.
Muscle will be pulled over the bone. It will be sutured in place. The skin will be pulled over the muscle. It will be sewn to form a stump. Drains may be inserted into the stump. It will allow blood and fluids to drain from the area in the first few days after surgery. A dressing will be placed over the area.
How Long Will It Take?
How long it takes depends on the site and the reason for surgery.
How Much Will It Hurt?
Pain and swelling are common. How long it lasts depends on the site and the reason for surgery. Medicine and home care can help.
Average Hospital Stay
The length of stay depends on the body part that was removed. For example:
- Foot or toe: 2 to 7 days
- Leg: 2 days to 2 weeks or more
- Arm: 7 to 12 days
- Finger: 0 to 1 day
If you have any problems, you may need to stay longer.
At the Hospital
Right after the procedure, the staff may:
- Give you pain medicine
- Give you medicine to prevent blood clots
- Raise the area to ease swelling
- Apply ice to the area
Physical therapy will be started soon after surgery. The care team will teach you how to use any assistive devices.
During your stay, staff will take steps to lower your chance of infection, such as:
- Washing their hands
- Wearing gloves or masks
- Keeping your incisions covered
You can also lower your chance of infection by:
- Washing your hands often and reminding visitors and staff to do the same
- Reminding staff to wear gloves or masks
- Not letting others touch your incisions
It may take 1 to 2 months for the site to heal. Physical activity may be limited during recovery. You may need to ask for help with daily activities and delay return to work. You may also need to learn new ways to do daily tasks.
Call Your Doctor
Call the doctor if you are not getting better or you have:
- Increasing redness, swelling, pain, excess bleeding, or discharge
- Pain that you cannot control with medicine
- Signs of infection, such as fever or chills
- Nausea or vomiting
- Feelings of depression
- Cough, shortness of breath, or chest pain
- New or unexpected symptoms
If you think you have an emergency, call for medical help right away.
American Diabetes Association
Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
Canadian Diabetes Association
The Canadian Orthopaedic Association
Amputation. John Hopkins Medicine website. Available at: http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/healthlibrary/conditions/adult/physical_medicine_and_rehabilitation/amputation_85,P01141. Accessed September 28, 2020.
Amputation. Society for Vascular Surgery website. Available at: https://vascular.org/patient-resources/vascular-treatments/amputation. Accessed September 28, 2020.
Fingertip injuries and amputations. Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at: http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00014. Accessed September 28, 2020.
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Last reviewed September 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Warren A. Bodine, DO, CAQSM Last Updated: 6/8/2021