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Emergency Care for an Accidental Amputation


Amputation is the removal of a body part. This can be done by a doctor in a hospital setting, such as when a foot must be amputated because of diabetes complications. But amputation may also happen during an accident.

An amputation may be complete (the body part is completely removed or cut off) or partial (much of the body part is cut off, but it remains attached to the rest of the body).

In some cases amputated parts can be successfully reattached. The success of the reattachment depends on:

  • What body part was amputated.
  • The condition of the amputated part.
  • The time since the amputation and receiving medical care.
  • The general health of the injured person.

Take these actions to help someone who has had an accidental amputation.

  1. Call emergency services.
  2. Stop the bleeding.

    A complete amputation may not bleed very much. The cut blood vessels may spasm, pull back into the injured part, and shrink. This slows or stops the bleeding. If there is bleeding, do the following:

    1. If available, wash your hands with soap and water and put on disposable gloves.

      If gloves are not available, use many layers of clean cloth, plastic bags, or the cleanest material available between your hands and the wound.

    2. Have the injured person lie down and elevate the site that is bleeding.
    3. Remove any visible objects in the wound that are easy to remove.
    4. Remove or cut clothing from around the wound.
    5. Apply steady direct pressure for a full 15 minutes.

      If blood soaks through the cloth, apply another one without lifting the first. If there is an object in the wound, apply pressure around the object, not directly over it.

    6. If moderate to severe bleeding has not slowed or stopped, continue direct pressure while getting help.

      Do all you can to keep the wound clean and avoid further injury to the area.

    7. Mild bleeding usually stops on its own or slows to an ooze or trickle after 15 minutes of pressure.

      It may ooze or trickle for up to 45 minutes.

  3. Wrap or cover the injured area with a sterile dressing or clean cloth until medical treatment is received.
  4. Check and treat for shock.

    The trauma of the accident or severe blood loss can cause the person to go into shock.

  5. Care for the amputated body part.

    If the body part was completely amputated:

    1. Recover the amputated body part, if possible, and transport it to the hospital with the injured person.

      If the part can't be found right away, transport the injured person to the hospital and bring the amputated part to the hospital when it is found.

    2. Gently rinse off dirt and debris with clean water, if possible.

      Do not scrub.

    3. Wrap the amputated part in a dry, sterile gauze or clean cloth.
    4. Put the wrapped part in a plastic bag or waterproof container.
    5. Place the plastic bag or waterproof container on ice.

      The goal is to keep the amputated part cool but not to cause more damage from the cold ice. Do not cover the part with ice or put it directly into ice water.

    If the body part was partially amputated:

    1. Elevate the injured area.
    2. Wrap or cover the injured area with a sterile dressing or clean cloth.
    3. Apply pressure if the injured area is bleeding.

      This will slow the bleeding until the person receives medical care. You don't want to cut off the blood flow to the partially amputated part, so pressure needs to be light—just enough to slow blood loss.

    4. Gently splint the injured area to prevent movement or further damage.


Current as of: July 10, 2023

Author: Healthwise Staff
Clinical Review Board
All Healthwise education is reviewed by a team that includes physicians, nurses, advanced practitioners, registered dieticians, and other healthcare professionals.


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