Hesperian Health Guides

Chapter 27: Amputations

HealthWiki > Disabled Village Children > Chapter 27: Amputations

An amputation is the loss of some part of the body. Rarely, children are born without one or both hands or feet. More often, children lose an arm or leg because of accidents and increasingly because of war. Or limbs must be cut off because of advanced bone infections or dangerous tumors (cancer).

Deciding what to do for a child with an amputation depends on a number of things, including the age of the child at the time of amputation, the amount of amputation, and above all, what the child (and parents) want and accept.

(any age)

A boy with no hands only stumps
A boy with hooks on hands picking corn from plant Boy eating with spoon and fork tied to wrist stumps.
Boy with high arm stumps using foot to bring food to his mouth.
He will probably want and accept hooks, or whatever can help him hold things better. Until he can get gripping hooks, figure out ways to attach tools and utensils to his stumps so he can do more for himself. A child with high arm amputations from birth often learns to use his feet almost as well as his hands.

Girl with one hand amputated.
Toddler playing with doll with hook on one hand.
Girl cutting with knife, holding bread with wrist stump.
If she was born that way and is given an artificial limb early, she will usually accept it and keep using it. But if her hand was amputated as an older child or she has gone for a long time without an artificial limb... . . . she may prefer to keep using the stump, and refuse a limb even if one is made for her.

Boy sitting with below the knee amputation in one leg.
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A low cost prosthetic limb
a limb with a detachable foot
He should get an artificial leg as soon after the amputation as possible or by one year of age. A growing child will often need a new, larger limb. Therefore, try to fit him with low-cost limbs that are easy to replace. Limbs with detachable feet, although often expensive, can be lengthened.

A child sitting with one leg amputated above the knee
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Up to age 10 (or more) she can walk well with a straight leg (no knee joint).
A child walking with a leg with knee joint
When older, she may prefer and will often walk better on a leg with a knee joint (if the family or program can pay for it and can keep replacing it as the child grows).
BOTH LEGS AMPUTATED ABOVE THE KNEES A boy with both amputated legs walking on short stumps When older, he may prefer longer limbs that make him as tall as other children—even if this means using crutches.
A boy walking with two longer limbs and two crutches
Children with very high amputation of the legs may do best in wheelchairs.
a boy sitting on the floor with both legs amputated above the knee When very young, he may move about most easily on short ‘stump’ limbs.

This page was updated:21 Nov 2019