DefinitionAn above-the-knee amputation (AKA) is the surgical removal of the leg above the knee.
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Reasons for ProcedureAn amputation above the knee may be done because of:
- Poor blood flow that cannot be fixed
- Severe infection
- Trauma or injury
- Congenital disorders, such as a limb that has not formed properly
Possible ComplicationsProblems from the procedure are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Your doctor will review potential problems, like:
- Skin breakdown at the residual limb
- Poor healing of the amputation site that may require a higher level amputation
- Swelling of the residual limb
- Decreased range of motion in the hip joint
- Phantom limb sensation —feeling that the amputated limb is still there
- Phantom pain —feeling pain in amputated limb area
- Blood clots
- Reaction to anesthesia
What to Expect
Prior to ProcedureYour doctor may do the following before your procedure:
- Physical exam
- Blood tests
- Imaging tests, such as x-rays or scans
- Have you donate blood in case you need a transfusion
- Prescribe antibiotics to prevent infection
- Arrange for a ride home.
- Arrange for help at home while you recover.
- Talk to your doctor about any medications, herbs, or supplements you are taking.
- Ask your doctor about devices you will need after the surgery like an artificial limb, walker , crutches , and/or wheelchair .
AnesthesiaYou may be given:
- General anesthesia —you will be asleep during the surgery
- Spinal anesthesia —you will be numbed from the waist down
- Regional anesthesia —this will numb your leg and the area surrounding it
Description of the ProcedureAn incision will be made in the skin above the knee. Next, the muscles will be divided and the blood vessels clamped. A special saw is used to cut through the bone. The muscles are then sewn and shaped so that a stump is formed to cushion the bone. Nerves are divided and placed so they do not cause pain. The skin is closed over the muscles, forming the stump. Drains may be inserted into the stump to drain blood for the first few days after surgery. A dressing and compression stocking will be placed over the stump.
How Long Will It Take?Several hours, depending on your health and the reason for the surgery
How Much Will It Hurt?Anesthesia will prevent pain during surgery. Pain and discomfort after the procedure can be managed with medications.
Average Hospital StayThe usual length of stay is 5-14 days. It is possible that you may have to stay longer if complications arise. You may also go to a rehabilitation hospital to help you recover.
Post-procedure CareAt the HospitalRight after the procedure, you will be in a recovery room where your blood pressure, pulse, and breathing will be monitored. Recovery may also include:
- Pain medications
- Antibiotics to prevent infection
- Medication to prevent blood clots
- Washing their hands
- Wearing gloves or masks
- Keeping your incisions covered
- Washing your hands often and reminding your healthcare providers to do the same
- Reminding your healthcare providers to wear gloves or masks
- Not allowing others to touch your incision
- Continue with your physical therapist’s exercise program.
- Be sure to follow your doctor's instructions.
Call Your DoctorCall your doctor if any of these occur:
- Increased swelling in the residual limb
- Poorly fitting prosthesis
- Pain that can't be controlled with the medications you've been given
- Signs of infection, such as fever or chills
- Increasing redness, swelling, increasing pain, excess bleeding, or discharge from the incision site
- Persistent nausea or vomiting
- Increased symptoms of depression
- New cough , shortness of breath, or chest pain
- Joint pain, fatigue, stiffness, rash, or other new symptoms
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
American Diabetes Association
Canadian Diabetes Association
The Canadian Orthopaedic Association
Amputation. John Hopkins Medicine website. Available at: http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/healthlibrary/conditions/adult/physical%5Fmedicine%5Fand%5Frehabilitation/amputation%5F85,P01141. Accessed December 4, 2014.
Amputation. Society for Vascular Surgery website. Available at: http://www.vascularweb.org/vascularhealth/Pages/amputation.aspx. Updated February 2011. Accessed December 4, 2014.
Amputation procedure. John Hopkins Medicine website. Available at: http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/healthlibrary/test%5Fprocedures/cardiovascular/amputation%5Fprocedure%5F92,P08292. Accessed December 4, 2014.
Management of critical limb ischemia. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated July 16, 2014. Accessed December 4, 2014.
- Reviewer: Michael Woods, MD
- Review Date: 12/2014
- Update Date: 12/20/2014