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Amputation – Causes, Types and Surgery

Amputation is defined as the process of cutting off a projecting body part by surgery, trauma or prolonged constriction. It also refers to the condition of disability that results from the loss of limbs or extremities.

amputation orthopedic operation

In medical terms, amputation is a procedure performed to control pain or diseases  in affected limbs,  to treat gangrene or malignancies. Because human extremities do not grow back, the only options for recovering the loss are transplants or prosthesis.

The most common cause for amputation is the lack of circulation caused by damage to the arteries, which usually derives from atherosclerosis or diabetes and most frequent among people of 50 – 75 years of age.

The need for amputation is also caused by:

  • Circulatory disorders –  They refer to the most frequent reason for amputations: gangrene. This group also includes diabetic foot infection and sepsis.
  • Trauma – Is related to injuries in the limbs, so severe that it cannot be saved; also, to unexpected amputations due to accidents, commonly called traumatic amputation.
  • Infection – Frostbite, diabetes, and osteomyelitis or bone infection.
  • Neoplasm – Refers to tumors in soft tissue and cancerous bones.
  • Deformities – of digits/limbs and extra digits/limbs (polydactyly).

Amputation Surgery Procedure

In order to prevent bleeding or hemorrhage, the ligating process is performed, in which the artery and the vein are threaded around an anatomical structure to shut off the flow of blood.

Then the muscles are transected and the bones are sawed. Usually an oscillating saw is used. The last part of the amputation surgery procedure consists of sharpening the edges of the bones and the closing of the skin and muscle.

In certain cases some additional elements are inserted, namely prostheses or artificial limbs are to be attached. Amputation surgery requires long-term post-surgical care and extensive rehabilitation.

amputation prosthesis wearer

Types of Amputation

  • Leg amputation: Includes a wide variety of procedures in different parts of the leg, including:
    • Digits
    • Partial foot
    • Ankle disarticulation
    • Knee disarticulation
    • Van-ness rotation
    • Hip disarticulation
    • Hemipelvectomy or hindquarter amputation
  • Below Knee amputation
  • Above knee amputation
  • Arm amputation
    • Digits
    • Metacarpal
    • Wrist disarticulation
    • Forearm
    • Elbow disarticulation
    • Above-elbow (transhumeral) amputation
    • Shoulder disarticulation
    • Forequarter amputation
    • Krukenberg procedure
  • Toe amputation
  • Ray amputation
  • Transmetatarsal amputation

Other types of amputation include those which are consequences of crimes (blinding) in certain cultures, as a form of punishment. Other cultures practice rituals in which teeth are removed, testicles are amputated (castration), the foreskin of penis (circumcision), or amputation of the clitoris (clitoridectomy).

Mastectomy is performed by oncologists for cancer removal in the breast.