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Procedures

Amputation of the Toe

General Overview

Amputation of the toe 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. An orthopaedic surgeon removes a part of or the entire toe, depending on need and condition.

Reasons for Amputation

  • Poor peripheral circulation, often caused by diabetes
  • Infection or gangrene
  • Frostbite
  • Traumatic accidents
  • Damaged blood vessels

Diagnosis

Before your doctor decides to amputate a toe, you'll experience a number of diagnostic tests and studies to determine the need and location of the amputation. You will likely have:

  • X-rays
  • Bone scan
  • Blood circulation tests

Surgery

You may be placed under general anesthesia during the surgical procedure so you'll be asleep, or, more likely for a toe amputation, have a regional or spinal block that will prevent you from feeling anything below the waist, but allow you to remain awake. Then:

  • A circular incision will be made in the skin and muscular tissues above or below the toe joint
  • Blood vessels, nerves and the phalange or toe bone is severed
  • Blood vessels are tied off or cauterized
  • The end of the bone is smoothed
  • 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.

Following a toe amputation, you can expect to be taken to a recovery room, where you'll be observed for a couple of hours. You may receive antibiotics and pain medication. A toe amputation is often performed in less than 30 minutes, and you can expect to stay in the hospital for about 2 days, perhaps less depending on your overall condition and prognosis.