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Complex Limb Salvage Surgery 

A complex limb salvage procedure can be used as an alternative to amputation for some patients. Limb amputation is essentially a guarantee that a patient will have to adjust to a “new normal” way of life. But with advances in modern medicine, some conditions that required amputation in the past can now be treated with another procedure. The goal of limb salvage surgery is to restore function while sparing as much existing, healthy bone and soft tissue as possible. If a doctor determines that a complex limb salvage procedure is viable for a patient, it is possible for someone to regain use of the limb and restore their quality of life. 

Conditions Treated With Limb Salvage Surgery 

Limb salvage surgery is used to treat injuries or medical conditions that have done enough damage to an extremity that amputation could realistically be considered, but not enough to make it the only possible option.  

These conditions include: 

  • Complex fractures (including malunion or nonunion of fractures) 
  • Infections 
  • Bone cancer (osteosarcoma) or soft tissue sarcoma 
  • Diabetic complications 
  • Certain wounds 
  • Accidental injuries 
  • Severe burns 
  • Frostbite 

Procedure Details 

Each patient’s limb salvage surgery will vary depending on the nature of the condition being treated. Methods include: 

  • Allograft bone replacement 
  • Metal implant (endoprosthesis) 
  • Joint fusion 
  • Tissue regeneration 

What to Expect With Limb Salvage Surgery 

There are several risks associated with complex limb salvage surgery, including: 

  • Infection 
  • Blood clots 
  • Fracture 
  • Nonunion 

Patients who have an allograft face a higher risk of developing early complications, while those who have an endoprosthesis are more likely to need additional surgery to replace their implant after it has reached the end of its life span. Post-surgery requirements for physical rehabilitation vary based on the location and nature of the procedure. 

Effectiveness 

When successful, many patients who undergo most types of limb salvage surgery will eventually be able to return to work and resume normal activities. Those who receive an allograft may even find that their affected limb becomes stronger than it was before surgery. 

At Tampa General Hospital’s Orthopaedic Institute, our board-certified and fellowship-trained orthopaedic surgeons use cutting-edge technology to achieve world-class outcomes for patients who are able to undergo complex limb salvage procedures.