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:
Problems from the procedure are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Your doctor will review potential problems, like:
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:
The anesthesia used 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 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:
Contact your doctor if your recovery is not progressing as expected or you develop complications, such as:
If you think you have 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
Bone sarcoma in the upper extremity: treatment options using limb salvage or amputation. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons Ortho Info website. Available at:
http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00092#Rehabilitation/Convalescence. Updated October 2007. Accessed December 5, 2014.
Fingertip injuries/amputations. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons Ortho Info website. Available at:
http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00014. Updated August 2011. Accessed December 5, 2014.
Last reviewed November 2015 by Donald Buck, 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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