Loss of a Limb

Levels of amputation

There are several levels of amputation, which a surgeon can perform. The level of amputation will depend on the state of your circulation and surrounding tissues. The most common levels are: hip disarticulation (through the hip joint), transfemoral (above the knee), knee disarticulation (through the knee joint) and transtibial (below the knee).


When you loose a limb you loose part of your physical self. The loss of a limb is a traumatic experience and it is common and normal to go through some or all of the stages of grieving:

  • Denial and Isolation
  • Anger
  • Bargaining
  • Depression
  • Acceptance and Hope

The length of time it takes a person to pass through these stages varies. Many people pass through these stages quickly. Some may get stuck in a phase whilst bypassing others. Also stages may occur in different orders. Many amputees report that these feeling diminish over time, particularly as greater levels of independence and physical activity are regained.

The different emotions experienced by the amputee may not only be due to the physical loss of a limb but also what effects the limb amputation will have on their family life, career, lifestyle and socialization.

It is important to remember that if you are experiencing these emotions you are not alone. There are many individuals, health professionals and organisations available to assist you.

You may want to think about discussing your feelings with supportive family/friends, a religious minister, social worker, doctor, counselor, peer support volunteer or another health professional. However, if you need urgent support and advice there are a number of free 24 hour counseling services are available around Australia.


Body Image

The loss of a limb can have a serious negative impact on a person’s body image. Children, for example, may feel “different” from their peers. Adults may find that their negative self-image affects their physical relationships.

Research has shown that people who feel self-conscious about their limb loss respond by avoiding social situations. Unfortunately, this can trigger depression If you are feeling self-conscious about your limb loss, try to remember that your physical appearance does not matter to those who care about you.

Speak to your GP or Rehabilitation Consultant to contact the relevant service to meet your needs. Additionally, speaking to another amputee who has lived with the physical and emotional challenges of limb loss can sometimes be of help.

Phantom Sensation and Phantom Limb Pain

Phantom sensation is the sensory experience that the amputated limb is still present. It is normal to have that feeling and it happens to most amputees. Phantom pain on the other hand is often described as intense twisting, burning, and shooting pain within the amputated limb. The higher the intensity and duration of a painful condition before the loss of the limb, the higher risk of phantom pain, which makes the pain control prior to limb loss an important issue.

Post Operative Care

This includes pain management, controlling swelling of the residual limb, shaping of the residual limb and the prevention of many other post-operative problems including infection. One of the most important goals, soon after surgery, is to protect the residual limb from injury while preventing infection of the surgical site. Swelling or edema may also occur and if left untreated can lead to an oddly shaped residual limb that may be difficult to fit into the socket of a prosthesis. As you gradually recover from the effects of surgery, you will meet a number of different health professionals, such as a social worker, occupational therapist, physiotherapist and prosthetist to help plan for your discharge.