You may need an above-the-knee amputation due to:
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- Poor blood flow that cannot be fixed
- Severe infection
- Trauma or injury
- Congenital disorders, such as a limb that has not formed properly
The Amputation Procedure
Your surgeon makes an incision in the skin above the knee, divides the muscles and clamps the blood vessels. A special saw cuts through the bone, and your surgeon then sews and shapes your muscles to form a stump that cushions your bone. Your surgeon divides your nerves and places them so they don't cause pain.
Your surgeon closes your skin over your muscles. Your care team may need to drain blood for a few days after the surgery. They will cover the stump with dressing and a compression stocking.
Your care team will monitor you during immediate recovery, possibly providing you with:
- Pain medications
- Antibiotics to prevent infection
- Medication to prevent blood clots
A typical hospital stay is between 5-14 days. You may have to stay longer if complications arise. You may also go to a rehabilitation hospital to help you recover.
Physical therapy often starts within 24 hours after your surgery. During this time you may need devices to help you walk.
Taking Care of Yourself After An Amputation
When you return home:
- Follow your doctor’s instructions on cleaning the incision site.
- Ask your doctor when it's safe to shower, bathe or soak in water.
- Continue with your physical therapist’s exercise program.
Adjusting to an amputation may be difficult and lead to depression. Consider talking to a therapist or psychologist.
After you leave the hospital, contact your doctor if any of the following occurs:
- Increased swelling in the residual limb
- Poorly fitting prosthesis
- Pain that can't be controlled with the medications you've been given
- Signs of infection, such as fever or chills
- Increasing redness, swelling, increasing pain, excess bleeding or discharge from the incision site
- Persistent nausea or vomiting
- Increased symptoms of depression
- New cough, shortness of breath or chest pain
- Joint pain, fatigue, stiffness, rash or other new symptoms
Your doctor will review potential problems, like:
- Skin breakdown at the residual limb
- Poor healing of the amputation site that may require a higher level amputation
- Swelling of the residual limb
- Decreased range of motion in the hip joint
- Phantom limb sensation — feeling that the amputated limb is still there
- Phantom pain — feeling pain in amputated limb area
- Blood clots
- Reaction to anesthesia
Factors that may increase your risk of complications include:
- Poor blood flow
- Prolonged immobilization
- Heart disease
- Smoking or lung disease
- Blood clotting disorders
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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.