Diseases & Conditions


Finger or Toe Amputation

What is a finger or toe amputation? A finger or toe amputation is a surgical procedure to remove one or more fingers or toes. When is it used? Amputation may be used to treat injury, infection, impaired blood supply, and tumor growth. Examples of alternatives include: Take medication for the infection. Use leeches. Choose not to have treatment, recognizing the risks of your condition. You should ask your doctor about these choices. How do I prepare for a finger or toe amputation? Plan for your care and recovery after the operation, especially if you are to have general anesthesia. Allow for time to rest and try to find people to help you with your day-to-day duties. Do not take aspirin for 1 week before the operation. Follow any instructions your doctor may give you. If you are to have general anesthesia, eat a light meal, such as soup or salad, the night before the procedure. Do not eat or drink anything after midnight and the morning before the procedure. Do not even drink coffee, tea, or water. No special preparation is needed for regional anesthesia. What happens during the procedure? You will be given a regional or a general anesthetic. A regional anesthetic is a drug that should keep you from feeling pain during the operation. A general anesthetic will relax your muscles and make you feel as if you are in a deep sleep. It will prevent you from feeling pain during the operation. The doctor will make a cut in the finger or toe and cut through the muscles, bone, tendons, nerves, and blood vessels. Your doctor will sew the blood vessels shut, and sew the muscles over the bone for padding. Then the doctor will cover the muscles with skin. Temporary drains may be left in the cut to allow blood and fluid to drain. What happens after the procedure? You may be in the hospital until the infection is gone, which may take 1 to 4 days. You will need to keep your hand or foot elevated. You may need a blood transfusion. You may need to wear a cast. You may need physical or occupational therapy to help you adjust to the loss of your finger or toe. Ask your doctor what steps you should take and when you should come back for a checkup. What are the benefits of this procedure? A source of infection, pain, or cancer will be removed. If your toe or finger had gangrene, removing the finger or toe may stop its spread. What are the risks associated with this procedure? There are some risks when you have general anesthesia. Discuss these risks with your doctor. A regional anesthetic may not numb the area quite enough and you may feel some minor discomfort. Also, in rare cases, you may have an allergic reaction to the drug used in this type of anesthesia. Regional anesthesia is considered safer than general anesthesia. A blood clot may form in the veins, escape into the bloodstream, and block an artery in the lungs. You may be given a blood thinner to help prevent this. You may experience a complication from the blood transfusion. You should ask your doctor how these risks apply to you. When should I call the doctor? Call the doctor immediately if: You develop fever. You are in a lot of pain. The wound becomes red, swollen, or warm to the touch. Call the doctor during office hours if: You have questions about the procedure or its result. You want to make another appointment.