Amputation is the loss of all or part of a body part on the outside of your body. It may be something as small as a fingertip or it may be an entire arm or leg.
A body part might have to be removed as treatment for:
Diabetic foot problems are the most common reason people need amputation. Diabetes can cause sores on the feet that you might not even know you have if you don’t regularly check your feet. The sore can get severely infected and cause the flesh to die (gangrene).
Amputation may also happen as the result of an injury. For example, you might lose a finger, arm, or leg in a car accident or accident at work.
If a body part has been surgically removed, the treatment is focused on healing the wound and preventing complications.
If an amputation was accidental, the treatment depends on:
If the amputated part is not too damaged and you get treatment very soon after the accident, sometimes the lost body part can be put back onto the body. This is called reimplantation.
If an amputated part cannot be reimplanted or if the amputation is part of a medical treatment, then you will no longer have that body part. Physical and occupational therapy will help you go back to an active life without the amputated part.
You will be given antibiotics to prevent infection and pain medicines to help relieve pain.
Some people find it helpful to replace the missing body part with an artificial body part. The artificial body part is called a prosthesis. The prosthesis is fitted to your body. There are many different types of prostheses. Some have microcomputers in them. Deciding if you will get a prosthesis is a personal choice. Most people can return to an active life with or without a prosthesis. They can go back to work and take part in sports and activities they enjoy.
After an amputation you may have feelings called phantom pain. The pain seems to be in the part of your body that you lost. You may also have feelings of burning, tingling, or itching. You may have stump pain at the place on your body where the lost body part used to be. The exact cause of these feelings is not well understood. These feelings may be treated with medicines or other types of therapy.
Many amputations result from accidents that may be hard to prevent. However, some amputations can be prevented.
For more information, call the Amputee Coalition of America at 888-267-5669 or visit their Web site at http://www.amputee-coalition.org.