Foot Amputation: Before Your Surgery

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What is foot amputation?

Foot amputation is surgery to remove part or all of your foot. Your doctor will leave as much healthy skin, blood vessel, and nerve tissue as possible. You will be asleep during the surgery.

Your doctor will tell you how much of your foot should be removed. He or she will leave enough healthy skin to cover the residual limb or the remaining part of your foot. Some people get an artificial foot. This is called a prosthesis. If you get one, your doctor will shape the remaining part of your leg or foot for the best possible fit.

Your doctor may sew the skin closed to cover the residual limb or remaining part of your foot. Or he or she may leave it open to make sure that it heals as it should. In this case, the skin may be sewn together several days later. Or it may be left open to heal on its own. Skin that is left open can take a few months to close.

How long you will stay in the hospital after surgery depends on how much of your foot was removed. It also depends on your general health. You may need physical rehabilitation (rehab) after the surgery. Rehab can sometimes start within 48 hours of your surgery. It may last as long as 1 year.

Having part or all of your foot removed is traumatic. Learning to live with new limitations can be hard and frustrating. You may feel depressed. Or you may grieve for the lifestyle you used to have. Talking with your family, friends, and health professionals about your frustrations may help. You may also find that it helps to talk with a person who has had an amputation.

Remember that even though losing part or all of your foot is a challenge, it does not change who you are or prevent you from enjoying life. You will have to adapt and learn new ways to do things. But you will still be able to work and take part in sports and activities. And you can still learn, love, play, and live life to its fullest.

Many organizations can help you adjust to your new life. Websites for some of these include www.amputee.ca, www.amputeecoalitioncanada.org, and www.canadianamputeesports.ca.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

What happens before surgery?

Surgery can be stressful. This information will help you understand what you can expect. And it will help you safely prepare for surgery.

Preparing for surgery

  • Understand exactly what surgery is planned, along with the risks, benefits, and other options.
  • Tell your doctors ALL the medicines, including natural health products, such as vitamins, supplements, and herbal remedies you take. Some of these can increase the risk of bleeding or interact with anesthesia.
  • If you take blood thinners, such as warfarin (Coumadin), clopidogrel (Plavix), or aspirin, be sure to talk to your doctor. He or she will tell you if you should stop taking these medicines before your surgery. Make sure that you understand exactly what your doctor wants you to do.
  • Your doctor will tell you which medicines to take or stop before your surgery. You may need to stop taking certain medicines a week or more before surgery. So talk to your doctor as soon as you can.
  • If you have an advance care plan, let your doctor know. If you don't have one, you may want to prepare one. It lets your doctor and loved ones know your health care wishes. Doctors advise that everyone prepare these papers before any type of surgery or procedure.

What happens on the day of surgery?

  • Follow the instructions exactly about when to stop eating and drinking. If you don't, your surgery may be cancelled. If your doctor told you to take your medicines on the day of surgery, take them with only a sip of water.
  • Take a bath or shower before you come in for your surgery. Do not apply lotions, perfumes, deodorants, or nail polish.
  • Do not shave the surgical site yourself.
  • Take off all jewellery and piercings. And take out contact lenses, if you wear them.

At the hospital or surgery centre

  • Bring a picture ID.
  • The area for surgery is often marked to make sure there are no errors.
  • You will be kept comfortable and safe by your anesthesia provider. You will be asleep during the surgery.
  • The surgery will take about 30 to 60 minutes.

Going home

  • Be sure you have someone to drive you home. Anesthesia and pain medicine make it unsafe for you to drive.
  • You will be given more specific instructions about recovering from your surgery. They will cover things like diet, wound care, follow-up care, driving, and getting back to your normal routine.

When should you call your doctor?

  • You have questions or concerns.
  • You don't understand how to prepare for your surgery.
  • You become ill before the surgery (such as fever, flu, or a cold).
  • You need to reschedule or have changed your mind about having the surgery.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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