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Amputation of the Foot or Toe

We amputate toes, foot or part of a foot most often to:

  • Treat infections
  • Remove dead or damaged tissue, caused by gangrene or serious trauma 
gangrene on foot

Gangrene of Foot
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

How Long Does an Amputation Take?

The procedure takes 20-60 minutes. The hospital stay can last 2-7 days, depending.

What to Expect From an Amputation

Before the surgery, we may perform:

  • Blood tests
  • X-rays of toe and foot
  • Bone scans to see if the bone is infected
  • Tests to evaluate blood circulation and determine how much of the foot or toe needs to be amputated

Talk to the doctor about the medicines you are taking. You may be asked to adjust the dose or stop taking certain medicines, such as:

  • Aspirin or other anti-inflammatory drugs (may need to stop up to one week before)
  • Blood-thinning medicines, such as:
    • Clopidogrel
    • Warfarin
    • Ticlopidine

In the days leading up to your surgery:

  • Arrange for a ride to and from the hospital.
  • Arrange for help at home after the surgery.
  • The night before, eat a light meal. Do not eat or drink anything after midnight.
  • You may be asked to shower the morning of your procedure. You may be asked to use a special antibacterial soap.

Anesthesia During Amputation

Based on your surgery and general health, you may have:

  • General anesthesia —You will be asleep.
  • Local anesthesia — The area that is being operated on will be numbed.
  • Spinal anesthesia — Medicine is delivered to the spine to numb the lower body.

How We Amputate

We give you IV fluids and antibiotics, then wash your foot with an antibacterial solution. The surgeon then makes an incision into the skin around the area. We tie the blood vessels off  with an electrical current to prevent bleeding and remove the necessary bones. 

We then smooth the ends of the remaining bone(s). We pull your remaining skin and muscle over the open area. It will be closed with stitches and place a sterile dressing over the incision.

If you have an active infection, we may drain fluids with a tube. In some cases, we may have to leave the skin open and packed with a moist dressing.

Amputation of Crushed Toe

crush toe amputation

Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

After the Amputation

You will be taken to a recovery room and monitored for any negative effects from the surgery or anesthesia. You will be given pain medicine and may also receive antibiotic medicines.

At the Hospital

  • Your foot will be kept elevated.
  • The remaining toes or foot will be wrapped with a bulky dressing. This will protect it from injury.
  • You will be encouraged to get up and begin walking as soon as the wound allows.
  • A physical therapist will likely assist you in walking at first.

Recovering at Home 

When you return home, do the following to help ensure a smooth recovery:

  • You may need to wear a cast, a special postoperative shoe, or a regular shoe with the foot box removed until the stitches are taken out. Stitches will be removed in about three weeks.
  • Ask your doctor about when it is safe to shower, bathe or soak in water.
  • You may be advised to begin an exercise, physical therapy or rehabilitation program.
  • If you are a smoker, you should quit.
  • Be sure to follow your doctor’s instructions about activity and medicines.

Are There Complications from Amputations?

Complications are rare, but no procedure is completely free of risk. Possible complications could include:

  • Difficulty healing
  • Infection
  • Stump pain (severe pain in the remaining tissue)
  • Phantom limb pain (a painful sensation that the foot or toe is still there)
  • Continued spread of gangrene, requiring amputation of more areas of your foot, toes or leg
  • Bleeding
  • Nerve damage
  • Limp or trouble walking (depending on which toe or how much of the foot has been removed)
  • Contracture deformity

Factors that may increase the risk of complications include:

  • Smoking
  • Infection
  • Poorly controlled diabetes
  • Poor blood circulation
  • Bleeding disorders
  • Heart problems or high blood pressure
  • Smoking
  • Kidney failure
  • Obesity
  • Advanced age

Need an Amputation?

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Content was created using EBSCO’s Health Library. Edits to original content made by Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia. This information is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

After Amputation

After you leave the hospital, contact your doctor if any of the following occurs:

  • Signs of infection, including fever and chills
  • Redness, swelling, increasing pain, excessive bleeding or any discharge from the incision site
  • Chalky white or blackish appearance of foot, other toes or leg
  • Decreased sensation, numbness, or tingling in the rest of your foot, toes or leg
  • Nausea and/or vomiting that you cannot control with the medicines you were given after surgery or that persist for more than one day after discharge from the hospital
  • Pain that you cannot control with the medicines you have been given
  • Pain, burning, urgency or frequency of urination or blood in the urine
  • Cough, shortness of breath or chest pain
  • Joint pain, fatigue, stiffness, rash or other new symptoms

In case of an emergency, call for medical help right away.

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