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What is an amputation?

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.

When is it used?

A body part might have to be removed due to;

·         Severe infection or injury.

·         Cancer.

·         Body tissue that is dying because it has poor blood supply.

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.

·         Cancer-Amputations may be required for bone cancer.  If it is a recurrence or if it involves important nerves or blood vessels.

·         Poor blood supply.

How are amputations treated?

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;

·         What body part was lost.

·         How long it happened before the treatment.

·         How damaged the amputated part is.

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 re-implantation. 

If an amputated part cannot be re-implanted 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 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 prosthesis is a personal choice. Most people can return to an active life with or without prosthesis. They can go back to work and take part in sports and activities they enjoy.

Phantom sensation or pain

After an amputation you may have feelings called phantom sensation. The sensation is that the amputated body part is still there. With the sensation you may feel; tingling, itching, pressure, cold, wetness, tickling or fatigue of the amputated limb. The pain seems to be in the part of your body that you lost. The pain may feel like; burning, squeezing, shooting, cramping, stabbing or unnatural positioning pain. 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. If you have a lot of pain before amputation the chances of phantom pain are greater. Pain in most cases decreases over time. These feelings may be treated with medicines or other types of therapy. Medication should not be the only treatment for the pain.

Other treatments of phantom pain are;

·         Keeping legs warm

·         Mentally exercising amputated limb

·         Walking with prosthesis

·         Making sure prosthesis is on properly and that proper support is on under prosthesis

·         Relaxing exercises

·         Massaging leg

·         TENS and acupuncture if recommended by Provider.

What can I do to help prevent amputations?

Many amputations result from accidents that may be hard to prevent. However, some amputations can be prevented.

·         If you have diabetes, you can prevent sores and other infections with careful foot inspections, good foot care, and shoes that fit properly.

·         Not smoking can help prevent poor blood circulation.

·         Using good safety habits when operation machinery can prevent serious injuries.

·         Reviewing diet, medications and support can help with prevention and overall health improvement.

For more information

War Amps:


Canadian Diabetes Association:


Nova Scotia Health Authority:


Health PEI:

Nova Scotia Telecare: Reviewed by Clinical Services Working group, December 2015

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.

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