When performing an amputation, a surgeon removes a limb, or part of a limb, that is no longer useful to you and is causing you great pain, or threatens your health because of extensive infection. Most commonly, a surgeon must perform this procedure on your toe, foot, leg, or arm. Physicians as well as patients consider amputation a last resort.

Although amputations may be required for other reasons, such as severe injury or the presence of a tumor, the most common reason you may need an amputation is if you have peripheral arterial disease (PAD) due to atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). In PAD, the blood vessels in your limbs become damaged because of hardening of the arteries or diabetes. Your body’s cells depend on a constant supply of oxygen and nutrients delivered to them by your blood. If your blood vessels are unable to supply blood and oxygen to your fingers or toes, the cells and tissues die and are vulnerable to infection.  If the blood supply cannot be improved sufficiently or if the tissue is beyond salvage, extensive tissue death may require amputation, especially if you are experiencing severe pain or infection.

Amputation: Risks, Complications & Discharge Instructions