Amputation Wound Care
Wound care after amputation
According to the Amputee Coalition, every year there are approximately 185,000 amputations performed in the U.S., which equates to a total of 2 million people currently living with an amputated limb in the U.S. Undergoing an amputation is undoubtedly life-changing. Whether there is a sudden, traumatic accident that results in having a limb such as an arm or leg cut off or injured in an irreversible way, or an amputation is done as a surgical procedure after careful consideration and testing by a physician, recovery and coping can be difficult. An amputation can be both physically and emotionally challenging for anyone. It is important to understand that many new amputees function very well and pursue the same active lifestyle as prior to limb loss.
After your amputation surgery, attention will be focused on the residual limb. In order to maintain and care for the skin on your residual limb, it’s important to prevent infection from setting up.
Any wound resulting from surgery (such as amputation) is at risk of becoming infected because germs could enter the wound site. Infections can lead to further complications or even death if not treated properly. Because your residual limb will often be enclosed in a prosthetic socket or liner, it can be more prone to infections and skin breakdown. The highest rate of surgical site infection is associated with lower limb amputations.
The best way to handle an infection is to stop it before it starts. Wash anything that touches your skin, like socks, with mild soap and clean water, then rinse and dry. Don’t put a wet sock or other cloth on your arm or leg.
- Use a mild soap along with warm water
- A gauze pad or clean cloth can be used to wash the wound
- Start at one end of the wound and clean to the other side
- Wash away drainage or dried blood, but don’t scrub the wound
- Use a soft, clean towel or dry gauze to dry the area by patting it gently
- Check the wound for swelling, redness, or drainage
- Do not soak your residual limb
- Inspect your stump every day
- Use lotion to avoid peeling or dry skin (do not use alcohol-based lotions)
Experiencing an amputation can be stressful for both your physical and mental health. Post-surgery, it’s important that you do as many of your everyday activities as possible on your own. To be more comfortable, as well as possibly heal faster and with fewer complications, sit with your stump upright, avoid resting it on a pillow, and wash it daily.
Getting used to daily life with your amputation is key. While daily tasks may take more time to complete, it’s important and healthy to find new ways to complete your routine on your own. Make yourself small meals, organize small spaces, and take your time.
Even after the surgical wound has healed, your residual limb can still be swollen. Swelling must be reduced so your residual limb will fit into the socket of a prosthesis. This process is called “shaping” the residual limb. Your health care provider will prescribe a compression stocking to shape your residual limb. Wear the compression stocking (shrinker sock). This is a tapered sock that applies even pressure to the bottom of the residual limb. Pressure helps reduce swelling.
Call your doctor if…
- The residual limb is redder, or if there are red streaks on the skin
- The skin feels warmer to the touch than usual
- There is drainage or bleeding from the wound
- The pain is so intense that pain medication doesn’t help
- The wound is larger
- The skin is colder to the touch than usual
- There’s a smell coming from the amputation site
- There’s swelling or bulging around the amputation site
- There are new openings in the wound, or the skin is pulling away
- There’s thick brown or gray discharge
Recovery is an ongoing process, and varies from person to person. There are several phases on the road to recovery, and each can hold difficult challenges and require different coping strategies. Many people feel that talking with friends and family (or a counselor) can help ease emotional distress.
About Kenney Orthopedics…
Working closely with patients and caregivers in Kentucky and Indiana, the Kenney Orthopedics Team employs the latest biomechanical management, materials, and technology to restore function and permit normal motion after your amputation.
The highly qualified staff of Kenney Orthopedics will select, design, and fabricate the appropriate prostheses, prosthetic limb or device, or orthosis to fit your specific lifestyle and needs after your amputation. Visit us in Louisville or Lexington, Kentucky, or at one of our other locations in Kentucky (KY) or Indiana (IN). We can help you get moving again with a prosthesis designed for you after your amputation!