Amputation

Amputation is removal of a limb, or portion of a limb that is no longer useful to you and may be causing pain or threatens your health due to an infection. Common amputations are of the toe, foot, leg or arm. Dependent on your situation your surgeon will attempt to save as much of the limb as possible. Amputation is often the last resort after other limb salvage methods have failed. Amputation may be required for related to severe injury, presence of tumor, or the most common, Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD). PAD is caused by arthrosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). The arteries become unable to significantly carry blood to your fingers or toes, causing the cells and tissues to die and become more vulnerable to infection. If the blood supply is unable to be improved or if the tissue is beyond salvage, amputation may be the only option.

Your physician will complete a full physical exam as well as possibly order an ultrasound or CAT scan for full assessment of your arteries and veins prior to scheduling your amputation. Your surgeon will carefully decide the location of the incision by checking the pulse at a level closest to the site, comparing the appearance and temperature of diseased limb to the healthy limb. Your surgeon will also confirm the skin around the proposed incision site has a sensitivity to touch.

Surgery

You will be sedated for the procedure by an anesthesiologist. You will be connected to machines monitoring your heart rate, blood pressure and temperature. When the anesthesia has taken effect you will be unable to feel any pain.

Your surgeon will make an incision at the appropriate location leaving enough healthy skin to cover your stump for better wound healing. An oscillating saw is then used to cut through the bone; the bone is then smoothed to assure no sharp edges remain. Sharp edges can cause difficulty for prosthesis use in the future. Clamps will be applied to the healthy major blood vessels to minimize bleeding. Your surgeon will then stitch these vessels prior to releasing the clamps to ensure all bleeding points are secure. Skin flaps are then closed with sutures and staples; a dressing is placed over the incision and a stocking over the stump. Staples and sutures may stay in place for up to one month.

You will be admitted into the hospital for 5-14 days, depending on your individual situation for monitoring of wound appearance and care. Ideally your wound should fully heal in about 4-8 weeks after surgery.