What to Expect: The Months After Amputation Surgery

Your recovery will progress in stages. This sheet tells you what to expect during each stage. Keep in mind that not everyone follows this exact timeline. Your progress depends on your overall health, your diagnosis, and age.

The 5 basic stages are:

  • Recovering in the hospital

  • Preparing for your prosthesis

  • Getting fitted for your prosthesis

  • Learning to use your prosthesis

  • Returning to routine activities

Recovering in the hospital

After surgery, you’ll stay in the hospital about  3 to 7 days. Older people or people with other health problems may stay longer. During this stage, the main goals are:

  • Pain control

  • Taking care of your wound as it heals

  • Stretching and strengthening your muscles

  • Learning to transfer safely between your bed and other surfaces

  • Learning to use walking aids as needed

  • Learning to manage daily living skills

Preparing for a prosthesis at home

After you arrive home, you may start to prepare for your prosthesis fitting. This stage may take  3 to 4 weeks. During this stage, the main goals are:

  • Taking care of your wound (with sutures or staples still in)

  • Keeping your residual limb straight as often as you can

  • Continuing exercises learned in the hospital

  • Moving safely at all times to prevent falls

  • Keeping all follow-up appointments

Getting fitted for a prosthesis

Once your wound has healed, your first visit to the prosthetist may take place. They will start fitting you for a prosthesis. About  3 weeks after the first fitting, you’ll receive a preparatory (sometimes called temporary) prosthesis. During this stage, the main goals are:

  • Daily care of your residual limb

  • Daily use of a shrinker sock

  • Desensitization and scar massage

  • Continued stretching and strengthening of muscles

Learning to use a prosthesis

You will use the preparatory prosthesis until your residual limb has reached a stable size. This can take  2 to 6 months. Then you may receive a definitive (sometimes called permanent) prosthesis. This prosthesis may have a more natural look or have more advanced parts. Or, you will continue to use the preparatory prosthesis and it will serve as your definitive prosthesis. During this stage, you’ll learn how to:

  • Put on (don) and take off (doff) the prosthesis

  • Adjust sock ply (thickness)

  • Walk with your prosthesis using parallel bars

  • Use a walking aid (such as a walker or cane)

  • Walk without an aid, if possible

  • Prevent falls

  • Care for and clean the prosthesis

  • Slowly increase the length of time you wear the prosthesis each day

Returning to routine activities

When you’re ready, you may resume many activities that have been part of your life. But life may present new challenges. As you become more active, keep these goals in mind:

  • Work with your healthcare team to maintain your health.

  • Develop a support system of family and friends.

  • Return to meaningful activities such as a job, volunteer work, or social activities.

  • Practice coping methods, such as meditation and relaxation, to help you deal with new challenges as they arise.

When to contact your amputation team

During recovery, you may need to contact members of your amputation team. Call your:

  • Surgeon or primary care doctor if you notice signs of infection in your healing wound. Watch for sores or wounds that appear on your residual limb. And call if you fall or receive a blow to your limb.

  • Physical therapist if you have trouble walking, doing exercises, or if you experience stiffness

  • Prosthetist if your prosthesis feels loose, rubs, or pinches your residual limb

  • Social worker if you need home assistance or help with insurance

  • Psychologist or peer counselor if you could use more emotional support

© 2000-2023 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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