Amputation is a serious procedure that’s often performed only when no other medical option is feasible. While some believe that doctors only perform amputations in emergency situations, the fact is that many amputations are recommended by medical professionals after extensive evaluation and testing.
Horizon Orthotic & Prosthetic Experience in Kansas City specializes in helping patients with amputations regain their quality of life, with custom-designed prosthetic and orthopedic devices. Though we don’t perform amputation, we’re familiar with the process and can help provide insight into the different types of amputations and what one can expect throughout the process.
Today, we’re going to go over the different types of amputation performed by medical professionals. Broadly speaking, there are two types of categories for surgical amputation: upper limb and lower limb. Obviously, there are multiple limbs within each category, so we’ll summarize the common amputations for each.
Transtibial Amputation (below the knee) – A transtibial amputation is the most common type performed by professionals. Doctors perform amputation through the shin bone, but spare the knee and all of its ligaments. This leads to a higher likelihood of resuming normal activity post-operation.
Transfemoral Amputation (above the knee) – A transfemoral amputation is an amputation that extends above the knee joint and through the thigh bone. This type of amputation is often more difficult to deal with than a transtibial due to the fact that you will have now lost both your foot and knee. The prosthesis will have to be designed to replace not just the function of the foot, but of the knee as well.
Partial foot and toe amputation – partial foot amputation will result in the removal of one or multiple toes, or one of the long bones in your feet. This may affect a person’s ability to walk and balance themselves, but you’ll likely still be able to continue with normal activities.
Disarticulation – Disarticulation is the amputation of a body part at the joint. In this case, disarticulation can occur at the ankle, knee, and hip.
Disarticulation at the ankle (also known as a Symes amputation) results in the loss of the foot. The prosthetic design for this type of amputation generally requires a door to be incorporated in the prosthesis. This is done in order to ease the process of applying and removing the device. With disarticulation at the knee, patients lose their lower leg and knee joint, but unlike transfemoral amputation will keep the entire femur.
Disarticulation at the hip will remove the entire limb, including the femur; disarticulation at the hip is the rarest of this kind of amputation. With the removal of the hip joint, a mechanical hip will be required, along with a mechanical knee and foot. This amputation level requires a lot more energy to ambulate with the prosthesis.
Hemipelvectomy Amputation – Hemipelvic amputation is one of the least common types of amputation, often only occurring because of disease or traumatic injury. This amputation results in the removal of the entire leg and parts of the pelvis. Walking after this procedure is difficult because of the lack of residual limb. However, it is possible with the help of physical therapy and qualified medical professionals.
Transradial Amputation (below elbow) – A transradial, or below elbow amputation, is going to result in the partial removal of your forearm, but will keep your elbow intact. Much like a below-knee amputation, a below elbow amputation results in a higher likelihood of resuming normal activities. In fact, 70-80 percent of below-elbow amputations resulted in successful rehabilitation and sustained use of the joint.
Transhumeral Amputation (above elbow) – A transhumeral, or above elbow amputation, will cause the loss of your elbow, but you will maintain the use of the shoulder.
Similar to an above-knee amputation, an above elbow amputation has a higher risk of complications when attempting to resume normal activity compared to a below elbow amputation. This is because, like the knee, it’s hard to replicate the complex movements of the elbow joint with a prosthetic elbow.
Partial Hand Amputation – Partial hand amputation usually involves the loss of fingers, fingertips or the thumb. Among these, loss of the thumb or individual fingers is most common. In these cases, losing a thumb is often the most difficult to deal with. This is due to the lack of grasping ability that a person would otherwise have. The thumb is considered to be responsible for 60% of the function of the hand.
Metacarpal Amputation – A metacarpal amputation is an amputation through the middle of the hand and keeps the wrist intact. This is also called a partial hand amputation. Modern technologies such as myoelectric hands may allow you to regain much of your normal life following recovery.
Disarticulation – Disarticulation for upper limbs refers to amputation through the wrist, elbow, or shoulder. As you’ve probably picked up on by now, amputation on the lower parts of the limb increases the likelihood of maintaining mobility and continuing normal functions.
Disarticulation at the wrist will cause the loss of the entire hand and wrist joint. Disarticulation of the shoulder, meanwhile, will result in the loss of the entire arm including both the collarbone and shoulder blade. Elbow disarticulation will cause you to lose the joint, but will result in greater length and a better fitting prosthetic than an above elbow amputation.
There may be a variety of reasons that someone needs an amputation, but the most common one is vascular disease. Vascular diseases, especially peripheral artery disease (PAD) and diabetes, account for 82 percent of amputations in the United States. Though it may not be the sole cause of their issues, people often exacerbate these diseases with poor diet and lack of exercise. Other reasons one might need an amputation include severe illness, severe traumatic injury, or deformities.
Again, even though medical professionals perform some amputations in an emergency setting, most occur only after extensive testing and evaluations by doctors. A medical professional is ultimately the only one who can determine whether amputation is necessary.
At Horizon Orthotic & Prosthetic Experience in Kansas City, we fully understand that a prosthesis isn’t the right choice for everyone, and that’s perfectly okay! If you’re interested in a prosthesis following an amputation, our highly skilled clinical staff can help. We are an award-winning, local prosthetic and orthotic company that strives to give our patients HOPE every day.
We have highly-trained clinical staff who strive to make a difference in the lives of others. When you come into one of our state-of-the-art facilities, we will evaluate you and custom design the best prosthesis to fit your limb, life, and goals. We have six locations spanning across the Kansas City metro area, as well as Central Kansas and Central Missouri areas.
For more information about custom prosthetics in Kansas City, contact us today.