Amputation of the upper limb

Amputation of the upper limb involves the removal of the arm to a level above the diseased area. Amputation will only be advised once all other options to save the arm have been looked at. You may find it beneficial to have a meeting with the rehabilitation team at your hospital before surgery to discuss your rehabilitation and the level of function you may be able to achieve after surgery. This pre-amputation consultation is the ideal opportunity for you to ask any questions or discuss any concerns you may have and also to find out whether it may be possible for you to use a prosthetic limb.

As surgery for sarcoma is individual for each patient, rehabilitation will be tailored to each patient accordingly. The information given in this section is a general guide to amputation and individual cases should be discussed with your rehabilitation team. Further rehabilitation information appropriate to your hospital can be found by clicking the link at the end of this section.

An Occupational Therapist (OT) may see you the day after your amputation.  They will work with you on the ward to ensure you can manage your day to day activities such as getting dressed and using the toilet with the use of one hand.  They can teach you different techniques or recommend pieces of equipment that might help you to be more independent.  If you do need some additional help with certain things at home your OT can speak to your local social services to arrange a package of care for you. 

Your OT will also give you advice on managing any post-operative swelling. Advice will be given on scar management which you can begin once the wound is fully healed. Your OT can also give you advice about returning to driving, work and your usual leisure activities, and help you to think about how your amputation may impact on these areas of your life and how to manage this.

You may also be seen by a physiotherapist who will ensure you are able to walk around safely after the amputation and address any difficulties you may have with altered balance.  If you previously used a walking aid they may need to make some adaptations or provide an alternative piece of equipment that you can continue to use post amputation.  They may also give you some exercises to help maintain the range of movement in your other arm joints and neck.

Your therapy team may be able to provide you with advice regarding upper limb prosthetics but will refer you to a specialist limb fitting centre for a full assessment, which would usually take place approximately 4-6 weeks following amputation.

You may be able to obtain more specific information about rehabilitation after upper limb amputation from the hospital where you are having/have had surgery.

Amputation of the lower limb

Amputation of the lower limb involves the removal of the leg to a level above the diseased area. Amputation will only be advised once all other options to save the leg have been looked at. You may find it beneficial to have a meeting with the rehabilitation team at your hospital before surgery to discuss your rehabilitation and the level of function you may be able to achieve after surgery. This pre-amputation consultation is the ideal opportunity for you to ask any questions or discuss any concerns you may have and also to find out whether it may be possible for you to use a prosthetic limb.

As surgery for sarcoma is individual for each patient, rehabilitation will be tailored to each patient accordingly. The information given in this section is a general guide to amputation and individual cases should be discussed with your rehabilitation team. Further rehabilitation information appropriate to your hospital can be found by clicking the link at the end of this section.

The physiotherapist will come and see you the day after the operation and start teaching you some simple but essential exercises to prevent tightness in the muscles and stiffness in the joints. Provided you are feeling well and your pain is controlled, you will get up either the first or second day after your operation with the help of the physiotherapist or the occupational therapist. If you have had a hip disarticulation or trans-pelvic amputation it may take a few days longer to get out of bed initially. You will usually be provided with a wheelchair from the occupational therapy department for your use whilst in hospital. A referral will be made to your local wheelchair service, as you are likely to require the use of a wheelchair intermittently until you are proficient at using alternative methods like crutches or an artificial limb, and for use over longer distances. We understand that not all areas of the house are wheelchair accessible. The physiotherapist will help retrain your balance and if you are able teach you how to safely mobilise with crutches or a frame and how to manage going up and down stairs.

Once your post-operative dressings have been removed the physiotherapist will measure and fit a compression sock for amputations in the lower leg or thigh area, which will help to reduce the swelling. You will also be given advice on scar management once the stitches have been taken out.

You will also be seen by an occupational therapist whilst in hospital who will discuss how you will manage your activities of daily living after discharge. They will suggest any methods that will enable you to continue with as many of your normal daily living activities as possible and will assess you for any equipment that you may require. They may also refer you to your local social services for further assessment.

Most people go home 5 to 10 days after the operation, although this varies for every patient. If you have a hip disarticulation or trans-pelvic amputation, your stay in hospital may be longer, two to six weeks.

A member of the multi-disciplinary team will discuss limb fitting with you and explain the process to you. If it is felt that you will manage an artificial limb, a referral will be made to a limb fitting centre

You may be able to obtain more specific information about rehabilitation after lower limb amputation from the hospital where you are having/have had surgery.