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Amputations: What an amputation entails

If you or a loved one need to have an amputation, you'll want to know what it entails. Amputation occurs when a body part is so infected or damaged that it cannot be saved through medical means. Amputation is the surgical removal of a body part, usually a limb or extremity; this is generally only done when it no longer functions correctly or could put a patient's life at risk.

There are many people in America who live with amputations. Around 1.8 million people in the United States have an amputation, with amputations of the leg being the most common.

Some of the most common reasons for amputations to occur include severe injury, cancer of the bones of muscles on the limb, neuromas, frostbite, or serious infections that do not respond to antibiotics. Probably the most common cause of amputations is actually poor circulation; when the body part doesn't receive blood and oxygen, it can't survive.

To complete an amputation, patients must stay in a hospital for between five and 14 days or even longer. The length of time they need to stay in the hospital will depend on how the amputation was performed, which body part was removed, and the complications, if any, that occurred. Surgeons generally leave as much of the body part is possible, sealing off blood vessels and nerves, smoothing the bones, and removing the dead tissues.

It's possible that the wound may be left open for several days to monitor it. That way, if the doctor has to operate again, the skin is already open. Otherwise, the doctor will close it and allow it to heal. To recover, patients will spend time in the hospital, take medications for pain and to prevent infection, and also start rehabilitation to learn to use new artificial limbs.

Source: WebMD, "Amputation Overview," accessed Sep. 08, 2015

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