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Amputation General Overview

General Overview

Amputation is defined as removal of part of any or part of a limb or appendage of the body. The residual part of the limb that remains after the procedure is often called a stump. Your orthopaedic surgeon will retain the knee joint and save as much of the lower limb as possible and maintain the best measurement of stump length for optimal prosthetic fit and circulation.

Reasons for Amputation

  • Poor peripheral circulation, sometimes caused by diabetes
  • Hardening of the arteries or atherosclerosis, a condition caused by thickening of artery walls
  • Infection or gangrene
  • Frostbite
  • Traumatic accidents
  • Damaged blood vessels

Common Types of Lower Extremity Amputation

  • Above the knee - also known as trans-femoral
  • Below the knee - also called trans-tibial
  • Foot amputation
  • Toe amputation

The Amputation Procedure

Regardless of the type of amputation you're scheduled for, the process is similar. You'll undergo a myriad of diagnostic tests and studies to determine the need and location of the amputation, as well as the surgical approach. Prior to the amputation procedure, you'll be placed under general anesthesia during the surgical procedure so you'll be asleep. Then:

  • A circular incision will be made in the skin and muscular tissues above the knee
  • Blood vessels, nerves and femur (thighbone) are severed. Blood vessels are tied off.
  • The bone end is covered with a "flap" - often created with your own skin, muscle or other connective tissue
  • Muscles are stitched together with large sutures
  • The skin is closed with small sutures
  • The stump is wrapped in a thick bandage - your bandage may be a hard cast or soft, depending on the condition of your leg upon amputation. If you had infection, a soft bandage is most often used, covered with an elastic bandage.

What to Expect

Your doctor may suggest that an artificial limb or prosthesis be fitted to your stump as soon as possible to aid in the recovery process. You can expect to stay in the hospital for 2 to 7 days following the amputation, depending on what part of your limb was operated on. You can expect an approximately six-week recovery period following an above-the knee or below-the-knee or foot amputation, shorter for a toe amputation in most cases. You will undergo physical rehabilitation to help with gait training and to aid in your adaption of any prosthetic device for greater independence and mobility.