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Amputation

Leg swelling

12/03/2006

Question:

I had a through the knee amputation 20 years ago. Every 2 years or so I get a large swelling on the side of my stump, like a bulge so large I cannot use my prothesis for a week or so. Why does this happen and what can I do to lower the swelling? Thanks

Answer:

Ideally, your residual limb can be examined by your physician - and/or your prosthetist - at a time when this swelling is present. For example, if examination revealed localized redness, pain and tenderness, the cause could be inflamed or infected hair follicles. A fluid accumulation beneath the skin would be an alternative cause, but this would be unlikely since your amputation surgery was performed so long ago, and also unlikely assuming you wear your prosthesis on a daily basis. Another thought is that if there is a bone spur underlying the swollen area, this could potentially cause irritation from within your stump - an X-ray would show whether or not a bone spur is present - but this would be unlikely to cause problems only once every two years.

The best treatment for your symptoms would be based on the cause, which should be able to be diagnosed on the basis of a physical examination by your physician, and possibly imaging studies such as X-rays.

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Response by:

Brian L Bowyer, MD Brian L Bowyer, MD
Clinical Associate Professor
Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University