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Amputation is the loss of a body part — usually a finger, toe, arm, or leg. A traumatic amputation is when a part of your body is completely or partially cut off due to an accident or violence. With surgical amputation, a limb or part of a limb is removed in a planned operation. Some people need surgical amputation because of an illness, such as diabetes or cancer.
You will start physical therapy as soon as possible after your surgery. At first, this involves gentle stretching and exercises to keep muscles strong and joints healthy and promote good blood flow. Your therapy will continue as your body heals. Later, you will practice activities such as moving from a bed to a wheelchair or getting dressed. Therapy can last a long time.
Some people choose to wear a manmade limb, called a prosthesis (pross-THEE-suhss). Some prostheses can restore the function of the lost body part. For example, many people who have had an amputation below the knee can walk independently with a prosthesis. Some people choose prostheses for cosmetic reasons. Many people practice with a temporary prosthesis before receiving a permanent one. Prosthetic fitting and adjustment can take time, but is important. A prosthesis that does not fit well can lead to inactivity or limited use.
Recovery from amputation can be a hard journey. Feelings of sadness, anger, and frustration are common. People who have limb loss are at higher risk of depression. People who have limb loss and chronic illness, such as diabetes, are even more likely to be depressed. If recovering from amputation is a struggle for you, talk to your doctor. Treatment with medicine or counseling can help you get through this tough time. Family and caregiver support can also help. Meeting with someone who has had an amputation and now uses a prosthesis can be very motivating.
Explore other publications and websites
Amputation (Copyright © Society for Vascular Surgery) — This fact sheet describes the most common reasons for amputation, how amputations are performed, and how to prepare for the surgery. It also has information on what you can expect during recovery.
Diabetic Complications and Amputation Prevention (Copyright © American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons) — This fact sheet explains why people with diabetes need to monitor the health of their feet and legs. It also provides tips on how to avoid amputation.
Financial Assistance for Prosthetic Services, Durable Medical Equipment, and Other Assistive Devices (Copyright © Amputee Coalition of America) — This fact sheet discusses who is eligible for financial assistance and lists the organizations that can provide assistance.
Fingertip Injuries/Amputations (Copyright © American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons) — This online publication provides information on fingertip amputations and the different kinds of fingertip injuries. It includes first aid and medical treatments for both adults and children.
Limb Loss FAQ's (Copyright © ACA/NLLIC) — This publication provides information about caring for and reducing the risk of amputations, as well as a list of terms commonly used when discussing amputation.
National Limb Loss Information Center (Copyright © Amputee Coalition of America) — This website provides comprehensive resources for people with limb loss, as well as their families, friends, and the health care professionals involved in their lives.
Phantom Pain (Copyright © Mayo Foundation) — Phantom pain, or pain in a limb that no longer exists, is common after amputation. This fact sheet describes the symptoms of phantom pain, treatment, and self-care.
Connect with other organizations
American Academy of Orthotists and Prosthetists
American Diabetes Association
Amputee Coalition of America
Lower Extremity Amputation Prevention (LEAP) Program, DPSP, BPHC
National Amputation Foundation
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, NIH, HHS
Content last updated September 22, 2009.
Resources last updated September 22, 2009.
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