Deliberations About the Functional Benefits and Complications of Partial Foot Amputation: Do We Pay Heed to the Purported Benefits at the Expense of Minimizing Complications? Academic Article uri icon


  • While discussion about the benefits and complications of partial foot amputation (PFA) is not new, much of it has hinged on anecdotal evidence and led to the popular view that the risk of complications and secondary amputation is reasonable when weighed against the perceived benefits associated with maintaining the ankle joint and residual foot length, including more normal walking, reduced energy expenditure, and improved quality of life. The research evidence makes it difficult not to question whether these benefits are valid and worth striving to achieve. When you consider that persons who undergo PFA are typically in the later years of their life and have limited mobility, it raises the question of whether we place too much emphasis on achieving the purported functional benefits of PFA and too little emphasis on achieving primary wound healing and mitigating the high rates of complications and subsequent amputation. If further research supports what we see emerging in the evidence, there will be a case to be made for selecting the level of PFA based primarily on the potential for wound healing, rather than trying to strike a balance with the perceived functional benefits. This may mean that transtibial amputation is preferable in many cases, given the lower rates of complications and secondary amputation, very similar function in terms of walking and energy expenditure, and similar lived experience of limb loss when compared with persons with PFA. Further research is needed to better understand the complications and benefits of PFA to make this a more viable, first-and-final amputation procedure.

publication date

  • August 2013