Amputation is a surgical procedure that is performed to remove all or part of a limb or extremity. There are several causes as to why amputation must be performed, such as trauma; illness, such as diabetes; or infection at a distal site. The process of amputation is complex and typically involves rehabilitation therapy and potential prosthetic devices. While it is a complicated medical process that has affected millions, amputation has not stopped many people from continuing to live active and healthy lives.
The process of amputation has dated back for centuries, when removal of a limb was a necessary procedure due to illness or injury. Unfortunately, many patients did not survive long after an amputation due to a lack of aseptic techniques or practices to reduce infection. Prosthetic devices began to be developed in the 15th century, although they were heavy and crudely formed. Technology and procedures continued to evolve and by the 19th century, amputations were performed more frequently, particularly during the Civil War. Today, amputations are a specialized medical procedure and prosthetic devices have advanced as technology continues to progress.
- History of Amputation and Prosthetics: A history of amputations and the development of prosthetics with text and photographs.
- The History and Development of Syme’s Amputation: An article detailing the work of James Syme, a 19th century pioneering surgeon in the area of amputation.
- Amputation: A brief history describing the development of surgical amputations.
- Civil War Amputation: A brief explanation of the process of amputation during the Civil War.
- Prosthetics Throughout History: A history of prosthetics and amputation history.
Types of Amputations
Amputations are classified as being either minor or major. Minor amputations are those that involve a digit, such as a toe or finger, or a minor part of the body being removed, such as a small part of the foot. Major amputations include removal of all or part of an extremity, such as removal of an arm or hand, or the portion of the leg below the knee. Major amputations are extensive operations that have greater possibilities of infections or complications following the procedure. Major amputations typically also require rehabilitation therapy and the amputee may be a candidate for a prosthetic device.
- Amputations and Amputation Surgery: An explanation of several different types of amputations, divided between major and minor.
- Amputations and Prosthetics: Explanations of the main differences among the types of amputations.
- Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery: An article about different types of amputation and artificial limbs.
- Handbook of Disabilities: Amputation: Definitions, explanations, and statistics from the University of Missouri.
Reasons for Amputation
There are various reasons why an amputation must be performed, and the decision to remove a limb is something that must be thoroughly discussed with a physician. Some illnesses, such as diabetes, reduce the amount of blood flow to distal extremities and the lack of circulation can cause damage. For example, an untreated wound in the foot of a diabetic can lead to gangrene, causing a need for amputation. Other illnesses, such as cancer, cause a tumor on a bone or part of the body that invades the surrounding tissue. To treat the cancer, the tumor and the surrounding limb must be removed for healing. The major cause of amputation is due to injury, such as a crushing force that destroys the ability to use a part of the body. For these reasons, amputation is typically a difficult but necessary decision to make.
- What is Amputation?: A descriptive list of common causes of amputation from Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital.
- Amputation Medicine: Causes and statistics of the major reasons for amputation, as well as the recovery process.
- Lancaster General Health: Information about the main reasons for amputation and risks of the procedure.
- Health Topics: Amputation: Amputation overview and some major reasons for the procedure from the University of Iowa.
- Statistics on Hand and Arm Loss: Data and information about many causes of upper extremity amputation.
Effects of Amputation
Because amputation is a major event, the reactions to the surgery vary as much as those who are involved with it. Amputation can cause an emotional response from some people due to the loss of a limb or body part. Some people continue to experience physical pain, called phantom limb pain, where their limb used to be. For those managing the emotional, psychological and physical effects of amputation, help and resources are available by physicians and professionals who can provide support.
- Mental Effects of Amputation: A discussion of some emotional reactions to limb loss. The article is several years old, but the information remains applicable.
- Phantom Limb Syndrome: A resource guide for patients who have experienced amputation and are suffering from phantom limb pain.
There are several people that are famous not only for their accomplishments, but also because of the fact they are amputees. Famous amputees are musicians, athletes, models, and many others that are well-known because of their abilities. For many amputees, their disability has not slowed them down in their goal of achieving their dreams. These people provide a role model and a source of encouragement for others who are also facing a limb disability.
- Amputee Online: A list of several well-known amputees that are athletes or involved in sports.
- Disabled World: A directory of many famous people that are amputees.
- Tom Whittaker: Homepage of the mountaineer amputee who climbed Mt. Everest.
- Heather Mills: Website of the famous amputee, providing links and information for those affected by limb loss.
Resources for Parents of Child Amputees
For the parent of a child amputee, there may be difficulties with managing the care and support of their child. Many parents feel isolated because of their child’s disability and feel they cannot connect with others who do not share similar circumstances. Other parents have questions or face financial complications and do not know who to contact. For parents of child amputees, there are numerous networks and resources available for information and support in the care of their child.
- Association of Children’s Prosthetic-Orthotic Clinics: An organization of professionals dedicated to providing information and care for children with limb loss and orthopedic disabilities.
- International Child Amputee Network: A site with many resources and information for parents, including specific topics and patient stories.
- Sure I Can: Articles and short stories to encourage child amputees to fulfill their potential.
- Helping Hand Foundation: Support and information for families of children with upper limb differences.
- Limb Differences: Online resources, practical information, and support for families and friends of children with limb differences.
- Child Prosthetics: Information about the needs specific to child amputees.
General Amputation Resources
Amputees or those facing the possibility of surgery may have questions or uncertainties about their situation. They may not be aware of what their options are when facing surgery, rehabilitation, or prosthetic treatment. There are a number of support groups and publications available to educate those who have questions about amputation. For those that are looking for help and guidance, there are numerous resources available.
- The Amputees Guide to Amputation and the Recovery Process: A guidebook written to prepare the amputee candidate for surgery and the process of recovery following the procedure.
- Vascular Web: A general resource page about the process of amputation, preparing for the surgery, and potential complications.
- Life Without Limits: Advice and information for amputees, their families, and careers.
- The Barr Foundation: Testimonials, resources, and financial assistance for those affected by amputation.
- Ertl Reconstruction: Stories, articles, and medical guidance for amputees.
- Amputation Overview: Facts about amputation, the surgical procedure, prosthetics, and rehabilitation.
Associations and Organizations for Amputees
Various organizations are available whose purpose is to educate others about amputation. These associations provide education through articles and research in the areas of technology and development. They are also a medium for professionals working in the areas of therapy and rehabilitation to gain useful educational credits and learning experiences. Associations and organizations for amputees are useful resources for those seeking help and support.
- Amputee Coalition of America: An organization empowering those with limb loss to achieve their full potential through education, support, and advocacy.
- Limbless Association: A leading UK charity for those affected by limb loss, their families, and the professionals who care for them.
- Wiggle Your Toes: An association providing information and community involvement for those affected by limb loss.
- Amputee Resource Foundation: Distributing information and providing research to improve the quality of life for amputees.
Newsgroups and Communities for Amputees
Newsgroups and communities that are available for amputees are places that help those affected by limb loss to meet and connect with others in similar circumstances. They are useful outlets of support and bonding with others through possibly difficult situations. Newsgroups can teach those affected about new and upcoming therapies in the field of rehabilitation and prosthetics. They are a valuable resource for those affected by limb loss and amputation.
- ActiveAmp: An online connected community for active amputees.
- National Amputation Foundation: Providing assistance, support, and funding for both military and civilian amputees.
- National Amputee Golf Association: A membership of amputee golfers playing in tournaments and cities across the United States.