Amputation is the loss of all or part of a limb. You may lose just a fingertip or an entire leg. Amputation may be used to treat a severe injury, an infection, a poor blood supply, or a tumor.
Complications related to diabetes are the most common reason people need amputation as a medical treatment. Accidental amputation may happen as the result of an injury, such as car or motorcycle accidents, industrial accidents, and outdoor recreation accidents. If an amputated part is not too damaged and the injury is recent, sometimes it can be put back onto the body. This is called re-implantation.
After an amputation, if the body part is not re-implanted, you will have stump pain at the site of the surgery. You may also have what is called phantom pain. This pain feels like it is coming from the part of your body that you lost. You may also have feelings of burning, tingling, or itching. The exact cause of these feelings is not completely understood.
How can I take care of myself when I go home?
How long it takes to get better depends on the reason for the amputation, how well you recover, your overall health, and any complications you may have. You may need to make some lifestyle changes to adjust to life without your limb.
Your provider will give you a list of your medicines when you leave the hospital.
Know your medicines. Know what they look like, how much you should take each time, how often you should take them, and why you take each one.
Take your medicines exactly as your provider tells you to.
Carry a list of your medicines in your wallet or purse. Include any nonprescription medicines and supplements on the list.
Your provider may prescribe medicine to:
Treat or prevent an infection
Help prevent blood clots
You may need to continue a rehabilitation program after you leave the hospital to help you adjust to the loss of your limb. Most rehabilitation programs include:
Physical therapy to help you regain muscle strength and teach you ways to move safely
Occupational therapy to help you relearn ways to do tasks without the amputated body part. You may be fitted with an artificial body part called prosthesis. The prosthesis is fitted to your body to take the place of the amputated part. A variety of prostheses are available. Some have microcomputers in them. There are even special prostheses for people who like to swim.
If you are told to change the dressing on your incision, wash your hands before changing the dressing and after disposing of the dressing.
Follow your provider’s instructions for follow-up appointments.
Keep appointments for any routine testing or wound care you may need.
If the amputation was caused from diabetes complications, talk to your provider about the routine tests you need to keep good control of your blood sugar.
Talk with your provider about any questions or fears you have.
Diet, Exercise, and Other Lifestyle Changes
Follow the treatment plan your healthcare provider prescribes.
Follow activity restrictions, such as not driving or operating machinery, as recommended by your healthcare provider or pharmacist, especially if you are taking pain medicines or muscle relaxants.
Exercise as your provider recommends. Your therapist may help to create an exercise plan for you after your amputation.
If you have diabetes:
Check and control your blood sugar
Prevent sores and infections with careful skin and foot exams, good skin and foot care, and shoes that fit well
Don’t smoke. Smoking can worsen poor blood circulation.
Call your healthcare provider if you have new or worsening:
Pain at the amputation site
Pain that is not well controlled with your medicine
Side effects from your medicine, such as nausea, dizziness, and mental changes, or hallucinations
Signs of infection around your surgical wound. These include:
The area around your wound is more red or painful
Your wound area is very warm to touch
You have blood, pus, or other fluid coming from the wound area
You have a fever higher than 101.5Â° F (38.6Â° C)
You have chills or muscle aches
Call your healthcare provider if you have:
Questions about the amputation or taking care of the stump
Questions for another amputee about how it feels to have lost a limb
Developed by RelayHealth.
Acute Care Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth. Last modified: 2013-12-11 Last reviewed: 2013-12-11
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.