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What to Expect: The Months After Amputation Surgery

Your recovery will progress in stages. This sheet tells you what to expect during each stage. Keep in mind that not everyone follows this exact timeline. Your progress depends on your overall health and age.

The five basic stages are:

  • Recovering in the hospital.

  • Preparing for your prosthesis.

  • Getting fitted for your prosthesis.

  • Learning to use your prosthesis.

  • Returning to routine activities.

    Man with amputated leg lying in hospital bed. Healthcare provider is standing next to bed helping man raise amputated leg.
    In the hospital, a physical therapist teaches you exercises to strengthen and stretch your muscles. Be sure to continue your exercises at home.

Recovering in the Hospital

After surgery, you’ll stay in the hospital about 3 to 7 days. Older patients or patients with other health problems may stay longer. During this stage, the main goals are:

  • Pain control.

  • Taking care of your incision as it heals.

  • Stretching and strengthening your muscles.

  • Learning to transfer safely between your bed and other surfaces.

  • Learning to use walking aids as needed.

  • Learning to manage daily living skills.

Preparing for a Prosthesis at Home

After you arrive home, you may begin to prepare for your prosthesis fitting. This stage may take 3 to 8  weeks. During this stage, the main goals are:

  • Taking care of your incision.

  • Continuing exercises learned in the hospital, including range of motion exercises for the residual limb.

  • Moving safely at all times to prevent falls.

  • Keeping all follow-up appointments.

Getting Fitted for a Prosthesis

Once your incision has healed, and if your medical status is adequate, your healthcare provider may refer you to a prosthetist. He or she will begin fitting you for a prosthesis. The fitting of your initial prosthesis may take several weeks and require several visits to your prosthetist. During this stage, the main goals are:

  • Daily care of your residual limb.

  • Daily use of a shrinker sock.

  • Desensitization and scar massage.

  • Continued stretching and strengthening of muscles.

Learning to Use a Prosthesis

You will use use your initial prosthesis until your residual limb has reached a stable size. This can take 2 to 12 months. Then, you’ll likely require fitting with a new, more permanent prosthesis. This prosthesis may have a more natural look or have more advanced parts. During this stage, you’ll learn how to:

  • Don (put on) and doff (take off) the prosthesis.

  • Adjust sock ply (thickness).

  • Walk with your prosthesis.

  • Use a walking aid (such as a walker or cane).

  • Walk without an aid, if possible.

  • Prevent falls.

  • Care for and clean the prosthesis.

  • Gradually increase the length of time the prosthesis is worn each day.

Returning to Routine Activities

When you’re ready, you may resume many activities that have been part of your life. But life may present new challenges. As you become more active, keep these goals in mind:

  • Work with your healthcare team to maintain your health.

  • Develop a support system of family and friends.

  • Consider participating in an amputee support group.

  • Return to meaningful activity. This could be a job, volunteer work, or social activities.

  • Practice coping techniques, such as meditation and relaxation. This can help you deal with new challenges as they arise.

When to Contact Your Amputation Team

During recovery, you may need to contact members of your amputation team. Call your:

  • Surgeon or medical doctor if you notice signs of infection in your healing wound. Watch for sores or wounds that appear on your residual limb. And call if you fall or receive a blow to your limb.

  • Physical therapist if you have trouble walking or doing exercises.

  • Prosthetist if your prosthesis feels loose, rubs, or pinches your residual limb.

  • Social worker if you need home assistance or help with insurance.

  • Psychologist or peer counselor if you could use more emotional support.

Author: StayWell Custom Communications
Last Annual Review Date: 5/15/2011
Copyright © The StayWell Company, LLC. except where otherwise noted.
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