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Above-the-Knee Amputation

Above-the-Knee Amputation

You may need an above-the-knee amputation due to:

cropped leg

Above-the-Knee Amputation
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc:

  • Poor blood flow that cannot be fixed
  • Severe infection
  • Trauma or injury
  • Tumors
  • Congenital disorders, such as a limb that has not formed properly

Problems from the procedure are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Your doctor will review potential problems, like:

  • Skin breakdown at the residual limb
  • Infection
  • 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
  • Bleeding
  • Blood clots
  • Reaction to anesthesia

Factors that may increase your risk of complications include:

  • Poor blood flow
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Infection
  • Prolonged immobilization
  • Heart disease
  • Smoking or lung disease
  • Blood clotting disorders

The Amputation Procedure

You may be given:

  • General anesthesia—you will be asleep during the surgery
  • Spinal anesthesia—you will be numbed from the waist down
  • Regional anesthesia—this will numb your leg and the area surrounding it

During surgery, the surgeon will first make an incision in the skin above the knee, divide the muscles and clamp the blood vessels.

The surgeon will use a special saw to cut through bone. The surgeon will then sew and shape your muscles to form a stump that cushions your bone. Your nerves will be divided and and placed so they don't cause pain. The surgeon will close 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

Physical therapy often starts within 24 hours after your surgery. During this time you may need devices to help you walk.

How Long Will You Be in the Hospital?

Typically amputation patients stay 5-14 days. You may have to stay longer if complications arise. You may also go to a rehabilitation hospital to help you recover.

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 is 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

If you think you have an emergency, call for medical help right away.


Call 434.243.3675.

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.

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