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What is Involved in an Arm Amputation?

By Patti Kate
Updated May 17, 2024
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There are several steps and methods involved in surgical arm amputation. The surgical procedure itself may include partial limb amputation or full arm amputation, depending on the individual case. The patient's medical history will need to be evaluated before any surgical procedures can be performed. Post operative procedures typically involve the recovery process for the patient, as well as instruction on how to perform daily tasks with an artificial arm.

Preparing for an arm amputation is generally best managed with consultation and advice from the patient's physician and surgeon. He will explain in full detail the procedures involved in surgery and recovery. He will also schedule tests that are necessary before surgery can take place. These tests may include blood work to check for any health issues, as well as x-rays, or other imaging diagnostics. Other necessary procedures might include cardiovascular examinations.

Before an arm amputation, it is necessary for the patient to sign a consent form. This form grants the surgeons, medical staff, and hospital the legal right to perform the amputation surgery. It is also essential the patient not consume any food or fluids several hours prior to surgery. If the patient is to be fitted with an arm prosthetic after amputation, measurements may be taken before the surgery takes place.

While on the operating table, an intravenous (IV) line is generally administered through a vein. An anesthesiologist will provide anesthesia, as well as careful monitoring of the patient's vital signs. The amount of anesthesia is typically determined by factors such as weight, age, and body size.

Also while the patient is situated on the operating table, a medical professional may clean the skin around the surgical area with antiseptic wash. Tubes may be inserted to help drain bodily fluids. Surgeons will determine exactly how much to amputate by detecting the pulse in proximity of the area to be cut.

Bones and tissue may require flattening or refinement in some cases. This will allow better fit of an arm prosthesis. There are generally two methods of the amputation. Surgeons will decide whether to use closed arm amputation or an open flap procedure.

The recovery process for arm amputation may take several weeks to many months, depending upon how well the stump heals and barring complications, such as infection. Pain medication will typically be prescribed for the patient and physical therapy may be necessary after the wound has healed. Some patients may also benefit from psychological counseling as well.

WiseGEEK is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

Discussion Comments

By Sporkasia — On Dec 16, 2014

@Laotionne - I work for a newspaper, and one of the areas I concentrate on is the military. I have interviewed many of the troops who have been injured and lost limbs in the recent U.S. conflicts and wars. Initially, I was surprised how most of them seemed to be able to keep their heads up and accept their injuries.

The advances in the technology to produce a better quality prosthetic arm and a better quality prosthetic leg has helped these troops a great deal, too. However, the biggest difference between the amputees who prosper and those who decline is the people they have around them. There is no replacement for the support of family, friends and medical staff.

By Laotionne — On Dec 16, 2014

@Feryll - That is amazing that the surfer you saw is able to still surf and be physically competitive. However, what is more remarkable to me is that the surfer has the mental strength to accept the arm amputation and go on with her life, and do the things she wants to do.

I have an uncle who had to have a leg amputation because of complications from diabetes, and he has been clinically depressed ever since the operation. He doesn't want to get out of the house. He doesn't want to do anything. A good day is when he gets out of bed to watch TV. Most days he stays in bed almost all day and sleeps.

By Feryll — On Dec 15, 2014

I was watching TV the other weekend, and saw this surfer who had lost an arm from a shark attack. Watching her on the surf board was amazing. I have tried surfing and I have a really tough time maintaining my balance once I get up on the board and catch a wave.

This surfer, who had only one arm, was riding these large waves and it was like she was glued to the board and she was totally balanced. It was remarkable. I wouldn't have thought a person could be a competitive surfer after going through an arm amputation.

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