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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.
Content last updated: September 22, 2009.