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Toe and forefoot amputation

4-minute read

What is foot disease?

Foot disease is where the tissues (skin and muscles) of your foot are dying.

Atherosclerosis happens when abnormal fatty material (atheroma) coats the inside of an artery, causing it to narrow or ‘harden’. The amount of blood flowing through the artery is reduced.

What are the benefits of surgery?

Surgery should relieve any pain, prevent the spread of infection, remove dead tissue, improve your mobility and can sometimes help you to return to normal activities.

Are there any alternatives to surgery?

The alternative is to take strong painkillers to treat any pain and to take antibiotics if you have an infection. However, this may still not be enough to relieve all the pain, and leaving dead or infected tissue untreated can be dangerous as the infection can spread.

What does the operation involve?

Various anaesthetic techniques are possible.

The operation usually takes 15 minutes to an hour.

Your surgeon will remove any dead or infected tissue and will leave as much healthy tissue as possible.

Your surgeon may need to perform the amputation below your knee.

How can I prepare myself for the operation?

If you smoke, stop smoking now. Smoking is one of the main reasons why this problem happens. Stopping now can help to reduce the risk of you having a heart attack (where part of the heart muscle dies), having further narrowing of the arteries and developing certain cancers. Stopping several weeks or more before the operation may reduce your risk of developing complications and will improve your long-term health.

Try to maintain a healthy weight. You have a higher risk of developing complications if you are overweight.

Regular exercise should help to prepare you for the operation, help you to recover and improve your long-term health. Before you start exercising, ask the healthcare team or your GP for advice.

Speak to the healthcare team about any vaccinations you might need to reduce your risk of serious illness while you recover. When you come into hospital, practise hand washing and wear a face covering when asked.

What complications can happen?

Some complications can be serious and can even cause death.

General complications of any operation

  • bleeding
  • blood clot in your leg
  • blood clot in your lung
  • difficulty passing urine
  • chest infection

Specific complications of this operation

  • damage to small blood vessels
  • amputation failure
  • infection of the surgical site (wound)
  • phantom limb sensation, where you can still feel the amputated part of your foot
  • severe pain, stiffness and loss of use of your foot

Consequences of this procedure

  • pain
  • unsightly scarring of your skin

How soon will I recover?

You will usually stay on the ward for up to 10 days so your wound can be checked.

The healthcare team will tell you when you can return to normal activities. You may not be able to go back home but will need to go into other accommodation appropriate to your physical abilities.

Regular exercise should help you to return to normal activities as soon as possible. Before you start exercising, ask the healthcare team or your GP for advice.

You can expect to make a good recovery with a better quality of life.


Foot disease is a common condition caused by a poor blood supply to your foot. Removing any dead or infected tissue should prevent the spread of infection and improve your mobility.


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Last reviewed: September 2023

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