Patricia Griffin Kellicker, BSN
An amputation is a surgery to remove a body part. It is removed because of disease or damage.
An amputation is typically done for one of the following reasons:
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:
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:
This will depend on the body part operated on. You may receive:
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.
This procedure can take 20 minutes to several hours. The length will depend on the type of amputation being done and your overall state of health.
Anesthesia will prevent pain during surgery. Pain and discomfort after the procedure can be managed with medications.
Your hospital stay will depend on the type of amputation you had. Typically:
Your doctor may choose to keep you longer if complications arise.
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:
Also, ask your doctor about when it is safe to shower, bathe, or soak in water.
Call your doctor if any of these occur:
If you think you have emergency, call for medical help right away.
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
Amputee Coalition of America
The Canadian Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Association
Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation
Amputation. Society for Vascular Surgery website. Available at:
http://www.vascularweb.org/patients/NorthPoint/Amputation.html. Accessed November 17, 2008.
Amputation of the foot or toe. EBSCO Health Library website. Available at:
http://healthlibrary.epnet.com/GetContent.aspx?token=D39207C8-9100-4DC0-9027-9AC6BA11942D&chunkiid=14763. Accessed November 17, 2008.
Amputation of the hand or finger and prosthetics. American Society for Surgery of the Hand website. Available at:
http://www.assh.org/Content/NavigationMenu/PatientsPublic/HandConditions/AmputationandProsthetics/Amputation_and_Pros.htm. Accessed November 17, 2008.
Badash M. Amputation, above the knee. EBSCO Health Library website. Available at:
http://healthlibrary.epnet.com/GetContent.aspx?token=D39207C8-9100-4DC0-9027-9AC6BA11942D&chunkiid=14822. Accessed November 17, 2008.
Bone Sarcoma in the Upper Extremity: Treatment Options Using Limb Salvage or Amputation. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at:
http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00092#Rehabilitation/Convalescence. Accessed November 18, 2008.
Buerger’s disease: what is it? Vascular Disease Foundation website. Available at:
http://www.vdf.org/diseaseinfo/buergers. Updated October 31, 2008. Accessed December 16, 2008.
Fingertip injuries/amputations. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at:
http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00014. Accessed November 18, 2008.
Last reviewed December 2012 by John C. Keel, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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