• Biology

What It's Like to Have a Limb Amputated

The very idea of having a limb amputated can be a terrifying one. Even a finger or two being cut off can seem incredibly scary, and what it's like to lose a limb is something that most people don't think about. However, the process of amputation is fascinating, and some people may still spend time musing upon what having a limb amputated feels like. Well, wonder no more.

What amputation feels like can only be called horrible. There's pain; there's blood; there may be phantom limb syndrome, the profound sense of loss that comes along with having a limb removed. That being said, there's still hope for full and functional lives for those who have amputations done. Some celebrities have even dealt with amputation and come out on top!

Much of what you're about to read is graphic, so be warned that this is not for the faint of heart. But if you're still curious what it's like to be amputated, read on. Just whatever you do, don't try this at home.

  • Your Limb Has Already Become Unsalvageable

    There are only a few reasons why someone has to have a limb amputated, and none of them are pretty. Doctors will opt to proceed with an amputation if there is no blood flow to an area, if it has been mangled in an accident, if it has an infection that is spreading rapidly and cannot be cured, if there are severe tumors in the limb, if there are burns and frostbite to the limb, or if there is loss of function to the limb.

    In other words, if having that limb attached to you could eventually kill you, they'll decide it needs to come off. Doctors are very reluctant to amputate a limb not only because it is an invasive and sometimes risky procedure, but also because they know that this is a life-changing event. If there's another way, most doctors will recommend it, so if one says to you that they need to amputate, the situation is probably dire.

  • You May Be Awake For The Procedure

    There are many ways that doctors will prepare you for an amputation. They'll tell you to fast for at least eight hours. They may tell you to stop taking medication, and they'll probably check you thoroughly to make sure you are otherwise healthy. Then, when it's finally time, they'll probably catheterize you and stick you with an IV. They do this so that they can put you under general anesthesia, which means you'll be unconscious. This is for two reasons. First of all, having a limb cut off is excruciatingly painful, and secondly they don't want you panicking while they're doing their work.

    That being said, in some less regular cases, you may be given spinal anesthesia instead. What this does is allows you to stay awake and numbs you from the waist down or in a specific limb with nerve blockage. Some scientists believe that this has mortality benefits, but studies have shown there's no major difference between the two. It's simply something you can ask your physician about.

  • They'll Take A Saw To Your Bone

    It may seem a little shocking that people would still use a saw to perform major surgery in this day and age, but the fact is that they definitely still do. It's just much more high tech now. Much of the time, surgeons use what looks like a piece of piano wire to do the cutting. They may also use a more old-fashioned looking bone saw, an electrical saw, or a form of clippers, depending on which bones must be cut.

    After the ligaments, blood vessels, and muscles have been carefully severed, the surgeon will at last turn their attention to the bone. Then, using one of the various saws, they will cut through the necessary bones. They try to do this as quickly and in as few movements as they can. Once the bone is cut, they will smooth out the edges so that it won't damage the rest of the flesh.

  • The Surgeon Will Trim And Shape The Muscles Into A Stump

    Once the amputated limb is off of you, doctors still have an important job to do that involves preparing the rest of your limb for life after amputation. The remaining muscles will be cut and shaped in order to fit into and work with a prosthetic limb if that is an option for the future. Doctors will also make sure the end of the bone is smooth, that bleeding has been stopped, and that blood vessels and nerves that have been severed are still well-kept and included in the shaping. The surgeon will, at last, bundle all that up into a stump around the severed bone, both to protect it and to make a more comfortable and useable limb. All that's left after this is to sew everything together and shut.