The Truth about Amputation

Amputation, a word that is unlikely if ever going to paint a picture of rainbows and butterflies. It is a word that invokes graphic images to mind as you might recall pictures from the various wars that have been fought. It is word of negativity that makes you sigh deeply as you try not to think about it. In the medical community, it is a last resort option. Patients dont like to be told they need an amp AND physicians dont like telling their patients they need an amp. As horrible as the idea is, they may be necessary/unavoidable. Lets look at it under such conditions.

Why might amputation be unavoidable? The simple and best answer: TO SAVE A LIFE

  • It is often the need to take a portion of your body in order for you to continue with life. Lets look at an example.
  • Severe infection/Gangrene: lets say an individual has a severe foot infection and a portion of the foot becomes gangrenous. The tissue has died and is now a staging point for bacteria. This bacteria can easily find its way into your blood stream making you septic and if left in place can take your life. Antibiotics can only do so much at this stage. So, in order to save your life and help you recover, it is necessary to remove that portion of your body.

How may an amputation be necessary? Best answer: SEVERE TRAUMA

  • Example: a traumatic injury has caused so much damage that salvage is not possible.

Important considerations before amputation:

  1. Blood flow in compromised patients it is important to know how well your vascular (blood flow) is because if an amputation is performed at a level that cannot be healed, then another surgery is necessary. The best way to test this is to have the Vascular Surgeons perform blood flow studies where they can see how well your arteries are flowing. If they need to treat any blockages they can (angioplasty, stenting, or bypassing).
    Best level we look at the best amputation that can be done to give you the best function of your foot/leg. Some types of amputations dont necessarily give a great functional capacity or the best chance of fitting with a prosthesis.

Types: there are multiple types that can be performed on the foot/ankle. Without going into too much detail they begin with simple toe amps and progress to complete removal of the foot at the ankle or mid-calf. YES, if you lose your big toe you can still walk. You wont have the same gait pattern as before, but you can still move around with ease.

Again, as horrible as amputations are, they do serve a purpose; the greatest of which is LIFE SAVING.

If you or someone you know has any foot or ankle related concerns, please contact Dr. Bowman at 713-467-8886 or visit

Photo Credit: Carlos Porto via

Category: Foot Health

Tags: Amputation, Antibiotics, Infections