(Amputation, Below-the-Knee; BKA)
Your doctor will review the possible complications. These may include:
- Poor healing of the amputation site requiring a higher level amputation
- Skin breakdown at the stump
- Decreased range of motion in the hip or knee
- Phantom sensation
Factors that may increase your risk of complications include:
- Poor blood flow
- Infection or open leg/foot ulcers
- Not being able to move for a long time
- Heart disease
- Smoking or lung disease
- Advanced age
- History of clotting or bleeding disorders
Discuss these risks with your doctor before surgery.
What to Expect
Prior to Procedure
If your surgery is planned, your doctor will review the surgery and what to expect. He will talk to you about how you are going to move after surgery. You may need a prosthesis (artificial limb), walker, crutches, wheelchair, or a combination of these.
At your appointment before your surgery, your doctor may:
- Examine your leg (check pulses, skin temperature, skin appearance, and sensitivity to touch)
- Ask you questions like:
- What kind of help do you have at home?
- Would you like to talk to a therapist about the amputation?
You should ask your doctor questions like:
- What kind of rehabilitation will I need?
- How long will my recovery be?
Before surgery, you may:
- See a physical therapist who will explain rehabilitation after surgery.
- Be asked not to eat or drink for 8-12 hours before your surgery—Ask your doctor if you should take regular medicines with a sip of water before surgery.
- Talk to your doctor about your medicines. You may be asked to stop taking some medicines up to one week before the surgery. Medicines stopped may include:
Description of Procedure
Once you are asleep and no longer feeling pain, a breathing tube will be placed if you have general anesthesia. The doctor will make a cut in the skin below the knee. The muscles will be separated and blood vessels clamped. A special saw will be used to cut through the bone. The muscles will be sewn and shaped so that a stump is formed to cushion the bone. Nerves will be separated and placed so that they do not cause pain. Blood vessels will be tied off. The skin will be closed over the muscles, forming the stump. Drains may be inserted into the stump to drain blood for the first few days. A dressing and compression stocking will be placed over the stump.
Immediately After Procedure
You will be taken to the recovery room for observation. If all is well, your breathing tube will be removed. You will be transferred to your hospital room for recovery.
How Long Will It Take?
Several hours (depending on your health and the reason for the surgery)
How Much Will It Hurt?
During surgery, you will not feel pain. After surgery, you will be given pain medicine.
Average Hospital Stay
5-14 days (Your doctor may choose to keep you longer if complications occur.)
At the Hospital
- You will receive antibiotics to prevent infection.
- You may be taught how to change your dressing.
- Physical therapy will begin in the hospital. Your therapist will show you how to stretch your hip and leg muscles to maintain range of motion. You will learn how to get in and out of bed and how to put weight on your leg. You may be taught how to use crutches, a walker, or a wheelchair until you can be fitted with a prosthesis.
While in the hospital, you may be asked to move your stump often. This will allow circulation and prevent contractures (stiffening causing loss of joint movement).
When you return home, do the following to help ensure a smooth recovery:
- Get help from family and friends.
- Change your bandages, replacing them with sterile bandages.
- You will need to continue physical therapy to build strength, maintain range of motion, and learn how use a prosthesis.
- Take care of your stump and prosthesis.
- Many people feel depressed after this type of surgery. Consider talking to a therapist or psychologist.
- Check with your doctor about which medicines to take at home.
- Be sure to follow your doctor's instructions.
Call Your Doctor
After you leave the hospital, call your doctor if any of the following occurs:
- Stump swelling
- Poorly fitting prosthesis
- Pain that is not controlled with pain medicines given
- Signs of infection, like fever or chills
- Redness, swelling, increasing pain, a lot of bleeding, or discharge from the incision site
- Nausea and/or vomiting that you cannot control with the medicines you were given, or which continue for more than two days after leaving the hospital
In case of an emergency, CALL 911.
American Diabetes Association
American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society
Amputee Coalition of America
Canadian Diabetes Association
Amputation. Society for Vascular Surgery website. Available at: http://www.vascularweb.org/patients/NorthPoint/Amputation.html. Accessed September 14, 2009.
Badash M. Amputation, above-the-knee. EBSCO Health Library. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/thisTopic.php?marketID=15&topicID=81. Last reviewed November 2008. Last updated July 21, 2009. Accessed September 14, 2009.
Leg amputation. Merck Manual website. Available at: http://www.merck.com/mkgr/mmg/sec3/ch29/ch29e.jsp. Accessed September 14, 2009.
Leg amputation rehabilitation. Merck Manual website. Available at: http://www.merck.com/mmpe/sec22/ch336/ch336i.html. Accessed September 14, 2009.
Professional Guide to Diseases. 9th ed. Ambler, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2009.
Last reviewed September 2009 by
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
Copyright © 2007 EBSCO Publishing All rights reserved.