When is an amputation considered the only treatment option?

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Wade R. Smith, MD
Orthopedic Surgery
There are generally two groups of people who end up with amputations. In the first group are those who have been injured severely and the blood vessels to their leg or their arm have been severed, or the limb itself has unfortunately been detached from the body. In some cases, it's appropriate to reattach the limb, and in some cases it is not. It's a very difficult decision that's based on experience as well as the criteria on what can be saved and what can't.

The second group is people who have a limb that hasn't healed, a bone that hasn't healed or have had a chronic infection for some time. Then there's always the question: Is the person better off going through the many steps that it's going to take to save this limb or is the person better off having an amputation? This is a very individualized decision. It depends so much on what the person has gone through and the actual condition of the limb, as well as the experience, insight and technical skills of the surgeon and the surgical team.

Continue Learning about Amputation as a Physical Disability

Amputation as a Physical Disability

The National Library of Medicine defines an amputee as a person who as lost a limb, an arm or a leg. While other amputations (such as breast) are done, they are considered differently. The most common reason for amputation is not ...

injury, but peripheral artery disease. Other reasons include cancer or an extremely severe infection that is not responding. Amputees may have phantom pain which is pain that seems to be in the limb that is missing. This often goes away after a period of weeks to months. Part of rehabilitation after an amputation may be fitting with an artificial or prosthetic limb and training in how to use it. Amputees are encouraged to exercise, and special prosthetics have been developed to help golf swings or enable skiing.
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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.