Foot amputation

Updated 11/18/2022
Amputated foot

A lower extremity amputation occurs when a portion of your foot or your entire foot is surgically removed. It could mean a toe amputation, a partial foot amputation, a midfoot amputation, or the loss of an entire limb.


“Foot amputation” is a catchall category that includes any part of the foot — from one toe to the entire foot. At University Foot and Ankle Institute (UFAI), we try to avoid amputation as much as possible and start with less invasive treatment methods. When amputation is necessary, we try to preserve as much bone, skin, blood vessel, and nerve tissue as much as possible. 

What are the most common causes of foot amputation?

Traumatic injury accounts for about 45% of all amputations. A traumatic amputation may be caused by a motor vehicle, occupational or industrial accident, or combat injury. 


Other common causes of foot amputation include:


  • Diabetes mellitus (Diabetic Foot Ulcers)
  • Gangrene
  • Peripheral arterial disease
  • Peripheral vascular disease
  • Tumors
  • Traumatic injuries
  • Severe infection
  • Vascular surgery


If tissue destruction, infection, or disease affects a foot and makes it impossible to repair, that part may be removed by surgical amputation.


Trauma or disease that cuts off blood flow to a body part for an extended time can also cause tissue death requiring amputation. An example is frostbite which can damage the blood vessels in fingers and toes.


About 54% of all surgical amputations result from complications of vascular diseases, such as diabetes and peripheral arterial disease (PAD).


Chronic vascular problems can lead to tissue death in the toes and feet. 


Severe sepsis or blood poisoning happens when drug-resistant bacteria overwhelm the body and spread throughout the bloodstream. Sepsis can affect blood flow and cause tissue to die, especially in the toes and feet. 


What are the types of lower limb amputation?

Whether you need a diabetic foot amputation, toe amputation, or any other amputation type, it is best to know the details ahead of time. 


While “lower extremity amputation” can also include transtibial amputation (below-knee leg amputation), knee amputation, or amputation at the hip, at UFAI we handle amputations of the foot and ankle.


Transmetatarsal Amputation  

During a transmetatarsal amputation (TMA), the bones in the ball of the foot, including the metatarsals, are amputated. There are five metatarsal bones are in each foot, spanning the distance from the ankle to the toes.


TMA surgery is a routine procedure for treating a highly infected foot or a foot with inadequate oxygen flow. Again, we will try to preserve a your foot whenever possible through our advanced wound care techniques.


Symes Amputation 

In a Symes amputation, also called an ankle disarticulation, the patient’s foot is amputated, but the fat pad and soft tissue around the heel are saved so the patient may still walk.


Although the patient may stand on the remaining heel pad, excessive walking on the remaining limb is not advised. That is because the amputated leg is shorter than the healthy one, which might induce secondary postural issues if the patient continues walking for lengthy periods using just the healthy leg.


What is recovery from foot amputation surgery like?

Recovery from amputation depends on the type of amputation you underwent.


In the hospital, your care team changes the dressings on the wound and will teach you how to change them for when you go home. Your healthcare provider will monitor wound healing and keep an eye out for any conditions that might interfere with healing. You’ll also be prescribed antibiotics and pain killers.


If you experience problems with phantom pain (a sense of pain in the now non-existent part of the limb) or grief over the lost limb, we can refer you to therapy or a specialist to coach you through the experience.


What are the options for foot prosthetics after foot amputation?

Innovative prosthetic device approaches continue to provide improved care options. The provision of a prosthesis represents the culmination of assessment, evaluation, design, fabrication, fitting, training, and follow-up, ultimately resulting in a custom device. 


With advances in techniques, materials, and components such as microprocessor knees and advanced feet and osseointegration, new opportunities continue to be developed to help people with limb loss resume their normal activities.


When should physical therapy begin after foot amputation?

Physical therapy and practice with the artificial limb may begin as soon as 10 to 14 days after surgery.


Physical therapy starts with light stretching and then moves on to more challenging exercises designed to strengthen your muscles, get you back to your routine, and give you your independence back. In addition, you’ll have plenty of time to hone your skills with your prosthetic limbs or other movement aids.


The physiotherapist will also guide you through exercises to prevent blood clot formation.


Ideally, the wound should fully heal in about four to eight weeks. But the physical and emotional adjustment to losing a limb can be a long process. 


Long-term foot amputation recovery and rehabilitation will include: 

  • Physical therapy exercises to improve muscle strength and control.
  • Activities to help restore the ability to carry out daily activities and promote independence.
  • Use of artificial limbs and assistive devices.
  • Mental health support — including counseling — to help with grief over the loss of the limb and adjustment to your new situation.


Before you're discharged from the hospital, an occupational therapist may arrange to visit you at home to see if it needs to be adapted to make it more accessible.


Follow your doctor’s recommendations!

Only take the pain medicine your orthopedic surgeon has recommended. The risk of bleeding increases with any anticoagulant, including aspirin.


Your podiatrist may advise you to enter an inpatient rehabilitation center if you’re having issues with wound healing or are not progressing in regaining your mobility.


Your healthcare team’s primary goals will be healing, muscle recovery, prosthetic limb fitting, and ambulation. They will show you how to maintain your prosthesis and foot care properly.


As you can see, there are a few foot amputation types depending on the issue. Dealing with limb loss can be incredibly difficult, but it doesn’t have to limit your ability to live a full life. With time and proper treatment, you can make a full recovery. Make sure to find amputation surgeons near me to find out what route is best for you.


UFAI, Southern California’s largest foot and ankle wound care specialists

UFAI is nationally recognized for advanced wound care treatment far beyond what a primary care physician can provide. Our doctors have decades of combined experience managing the special circumstances surrounding all types of foot and ankle wound care.


As one of Los Angeles’ largest podiatric healthcare practices, our wound care center offers multi-disciplinary medical care and diagnostic testing on-site, offering our patients convenience and peace of mind. For example, we can perform vascular testing at our clinics and have a vascular surgeon on our staff to treat patients with complex vascular diseases.


We are conveniently located throughout Southern California, and the Los Angeles area as our foot doctors are available at locations in or near: Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, West Los Angeles, Manhattan Beach, Northridge, Downtown Los Angeles, Westlake Village, Granada Hills, and Valencia, California. We accept over 1000 PPO health insurance plans, including Medicare.


If you want to learn more about how UFAI can help you, we encourage you to schedule a consultation with one of our foot and ankle specialists by calling (877) 736-6001 or making an appointment online.


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