Amputation Surgery: What to Know

Amputation Surgery: What to Know

If you or a loved one has an amputation surgery scheduled, you likely have endless questions about what to expect. There’s no question that amputation is one of the most physically and mentally taxing surgery experiences of all—but empowering yourself with knowledge can help ease some of the worry and stress surrounding your procedure. Today, then, we’re breaking down what you need to know about amputation surgery. 

1. Preop & Surgery

  • Speak with your surgery team and invite important family members in on the conversation.
  • Your surgeon and physical therapists will develop a recovery plan for you involving either in-patient or out-patient rehab.
  • You might be given exercises you can do before surgery to strengthen your recovery.
  • You will choose a prosthetist.
  • Know that experiencing anxiety before amputation surgery is completely normal—arm yourself with knowledge, rely on the emotional support of close relationships, and consider connecting with another amputee through the Amputee Coalition’s Certified Peer Visitor program.

2. Recovery Process

  • You’ll initially have bandages and compression garments on your wound. 
  • As your wound heals, it will be fit for your prosthesis using 3D imaging or plaster.
  • You’ll begin rehabilitation as soon as safely possible after surgery.
  • As your condition improves, rehab will become more extensive and in-depth.
  • You’ll have a dedicated rehabilitation team that typically includes:
    • Physicians
    • Physical Therapists
    • Occupational therapists
    • Nurses
    • Your prosthetist
  • Rehab can be either inpatient or outpatient, depending on what’s best for you and your recovery. 

3. Emotional Effects

  • Losing a limb comes with heavy emotional effects—know that it’s completely normal to experience depression, shock, and anger after amputation surgery. 
  • You might also experience a loss of sense of self or purpose.
  • Your emotional state may mimic the stages of grief (denial, anger, and depression—before an upward turn and acceptance)
  • If losing your limb was a result of an extended illness, amputation surgery might offer you a sense of freedom from pain.
  • You might have an assigned counselor on your rehab ream. If you don’t, talking to a specialist or connecting with a fellow amputee is always a good idea. 
  • Know that at-home rehab will present its own set of challenges. Returning home is typically when the effects of the amputation—and the realization of your new normal—are most evident.
  • Having some (or all) of the following in place can ease the emotional effects of losing a limb:
    • Goals you work toward
    • Planned activities
    • Daily routine
    • Regular sleep routine
    • Healthy diet
    • Mindfulness practice (daily meditation, breath work, journaling)
    • Emotional support from friends and family

4. Prosthesis

  • If your amputation surgery was scheduled, you’ll choose and meet your prosthetist before your procedure.
  • You’ll typically get a temporary prosthesis during rehab so your prosthetist can observe you and make any necessary changes.
  • Most prostheses can offer you full range of motion.  
  • There are all different types of prostheses:
    • Exoskeletal prosthesis are more durable and last longer but can be heavy.
    • Endoskeletal prosthesis are made of light-weight materials (like aluminum) and can be adjusted easily. 
    • Electric prosthesis move using signals your muscles create.
    • Hybrid prosthesis use a combination of electrical and manual components.

Want even more helpful surgery tips? Browse the rest of our blog for empowering pre-op information, helpful nutrition advice, and more!