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Losing a limb (leg, foot, arm, etc.) due to disease or injury is traumatic at any age. The decision to amputate is one that is complex and requires expert consultation with the patient and family to determine the right course of action for each patient.

The Decision to Undergo Amputation

Each year, about 185,000 people undergo amputations in the United States – primarily due to diabetes, peripheral arterial disease, injuries/accidents and cancer.

While each case is unique, every patient who undergoes amputation is faced with an array of medical, emotional and social needs.

At WakeMed, it is our mission to help educate and support every patient and family who is preparing for amputation. Our surgeons and specially trained amputee nursing and care team will remain with patients and families before and after surgery, during recovery and throughout rehabilitation.

Following is a list of terms about amputation and the changes that take place following surgery.

About Amputation

Amputation is performed only after all attempts to save the limb have failed or when it is necessary to save the patient’s life. Our medical team will only recommend amputation if there is no alternative to care. In each case, the surgeon will save as much of the patient’s limb as possible, while only removing the disease/injured area to promote optimal healing.

The two most common types of amputation include:

  • Below the knee (BKA) – the leg is removed below the knee.
  • Above the knee (AKA) – the leg is removed below the hip joint.

Following surgery, patients are taught how to care for their wound and meet with physical and occupational therapists who will develop therapy programs to maximize recovery and re-entry into daily living.

Patients may opt for continuing rehab through WakeMed’s outpatient rehabilitation program. We can also arrange for the patient to meet with a prosthetist who can measure and design an artificial limb. The prosthetist works closely with the patient’s rehab team to ensure a proper fit and to provide detailed instructions for optimal use.

WakeMed has developed a comprehensive book that gives patients and families an overview on what to expect before, during and after surgery.

StepForward - Prosthesis Training Program

Lower Limb Amputation Patient Education Notebook

Lower Limb Amputation Patient Education Notebook (Spanish)