Amputation as a treatment for soft tissue sarcomas
It’s not always possible to do limb-sparing surgery and occasionally amputation may be necessary. This may be because it’s the only way to get rid of the cancer.
Very occasionally, after discussion with their specialist doctor and family, people choose to have an amputation instead of limb-sparing surgery.
The preparation for amputation is similar to that for limb-sparing surgery. Psychological support for people who are about to have an amputation is also very important. The nursing and medical staff looking after you will be able to offer help and support. It may also be helpful to talk to someone who has had the same operation and can give you practical advice as well as support.
You will usually have a drip for a few days to give you fluids. A bandage will be applied over the affected site to help shape the area. You’ll have a tube in the wound to drain off any fluid that builds up.
Immediately after your surgery, your pain will usually be controlled either by an epidural, a patient controlled analgesia (PCA) pump or painkillers by injection.
Some people have a pain that appears to come from the part of the limb that has been amputated. This is known as phantom pain or sensation. Although this pain will usually fade over time, there may be some discomfort in the area for a while after the operation.
We have more information about pain and the many ways of controlling it.
About 2-3 days after surgery, you will be encouraged and helped to move around. The physiotherapist will visit you shortly after your operation and show you how to do exercises to keep the muscles around the operation site strong and supple. This will make it easier to use an artificial limb. The physiotherapist will also show you how to do breathing and leg exercises.
Artificial limb (prosthesis)
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Following an amputation, most people can be fitted with an artificial limb called a prosthesis. Modern technology means that artificial limbs are now very effective, enabling people to walk, run and play sport.
The fitting of artificial limbs may be arranged through the ward where you’re being treated or through a separate limb clinic. After your operation, you’ll have an appointment to see an artificial limb specialist who will show you the different types of prosthesis and how they work. Careful measurements have to be taken so that the prosthesis fits properly. It may take several weeks for your prosthesis to be made and, in the meantime, you may be fitted with a temporary one so that you can begin to get used to having one. Your doctor or nurse can give you more information about this.
After a couple of weeks and once your wound has healed, you’ll be able to go home.
We have more information about living with an amputation, which you may find helpful.