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Types of upper extremity amputations

On Behalf of | Jul 2, 2020 | Injury

The amputation of an arm is a catastrophic event that can greatly reduce or alter a person’s functioning for the rest of his or her life. There are many medical reasons for amputating a limb, but according to Ortho Bullets, a traumatic injury is the most common reason for amputating the upper extremity surgically.

A surgeon who performs an upper extremity amputation takes care not to remove any more of the limb than necessary. The National Center for Biotechnology Information explains that the categorization of upper extremity amputations occurs on the basis of where the incision takes place and how much of the limb the surgeon removes during the procedure.

Forequarter amputation

Severe trauma can lead to a forequarter amputation. Also called an interscapulothoracic amputation, this procedure removes the entire upper limb, including the shoulder joint. The surgeon can approach this procedure from either the front or the back, although the latter is more common.


The humerus is the long bone of the upper arm. A transhumeral amputation involves shortening the humerus but leaving the shoulder joint intact. It is also possible to perform the amputation at the elbow, preserving the length of the humerus.


The radius is one of the two bones of the forearm. The radius performs the motions required to flip the hand forward and backward, i.e., pronation and supination. The surgeon can allow the patient to retain these movements to some degree by preserving the length of the forearm.


The eight bones found at the wrist and connecting the hand to the forearm are the carpal bones. A transcarpal amputation has the advantage of allowing the patient to retain the range of motion of the wrist, allowing for flexion and extension.