How do I Care for an Amputation Stump?

Alicia Sparks

Since there are different types of amputations, the exact care instructions you’ll follow will depend on which body part was amputated. Following your amputation surgery, your surgeon, nurses, and other health care professionals will teach you how to properly care for your particular amputation stump. Even so, there are certain amputation aftercare instructions that apply across the board. These include instructions regarding dressings and bandages, cleaning the stump, and developing proper skin care and hygiene practices. Depending on the situation, you might also be instructed on how to help prep your stump for an amputation prosthesis.

A doctor will instruct you on how long you have to wait before washing your amputation stump.
A doctor will instruct you on how long you have to wait before washing your amputation stump.

Generally, there are two kinds of dressings for an amputation stump. The first is a typical wound dressing to protect the incision area. The second dressing, usually applied on top of the first, is to keep the swelling to a minimum and prepare the stump for an amputation prosthesis. The exact method for applying these bandages, and how much skin on your remaining limb they should cover, depends on your specific amputation. General rules include keeping the limb straight while bandaging, making sure the bandages aren’t too tight or too loose, and rebandaging the amputation stump as many times per day as ordered by your doctor.

Exact care instructions for an amputation stump depends on the body part that was amputated.
Exact care instructions for an amputation stump depends on the body part that was amputated.

Depending on the situation, your doctor might recommend you wear a sock-like bandage called a shrinker. This bandage is designed to fit over your amputation stump like a sock would fit over your foot. Although shrinkers aren’t always as effective as regular bandages, they’re generally easier to use. When wearing a shrinker, you must make sure to keep the top of the fabric from rolling, as this can decrease the blood circulation to your stump. Consult your doctor immediately if the shrinker begins to feel too loose or too tight.

The skin on and near a patient's amputation stump is generally not as tough as the skin on other parts of the body.
The skin on and near a patient's amputation stump is generally not as tough as the skin on other parts of the body.

Your doctor will instruct you on how long you must wait after an amputation before you can start washing your stump, but usually patients start this process once the stump has healed. Wash the amputation stump at least once a day with warm water and mild soap. During baths, avoid soaking the stump because this can cause the skin to soften and increase your changes of injuries. Refrain from using any product with harsh chemicals, as they can cause drying and prevent your skin from replacing its natural oils. Simple, unmedicated talc powders can help absorb perspiration and keep the stump dry.

As the years pass, it’s just as important to practice good skin care and hygiene habits as you did immediately following the amputation surgery. The skin on and near your amputation stump isn’t as tough and resilient as the skin on other parts of your body, and it’s more susceptible to irritation, injury, and infection. This is especially true for stumps that bear the continual stresses of wearing an amputation prosthesis. Many health and medical supply stores cater to skin care products specifically for different types of amputations. Treat any abrasions or irritation as your doctor directs, but be sure to contact your doctor if they don’t improve within a reasonable time.

Stretch bandages can help keep an amputation stump from becoming infected.
Stretch bandages can help keep an amputation stump from becoming infected.

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