Major upper-limb amputations for malignant tumors

Mark E. Puhaindran*, Joanne Chou, Jonathan A. Forsberg, Edward A. Athanasian

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Purpose: With the continued advancement of limb salvage surgery, major upper-limb amputations are being performed less frequently and are generally reserved for patients with large, multifocal, or recurrent tumors for whom limb salvage is no longer an option. We conducted a retrospective review of the current indications and patient outcomes after major upper-limb amputations for malignant tumors. Methods: Using the institution surgical database, we identified 43 patients who underwent major upper-limb amputation for primary and metastatic malignant tumors from 1996 to 2008. Results: Of these 43 patients, 25 had soft tissue sarcoma, 7 had bone sarcoma, and 11 had carcinoma. Two patients had stage I, 3 had stage II, 21 had stage III, and 17 had stage IV disease. We performed 45 amputations: 5 below the elbow, 14 above the elbow, and 26 at the forequarter. Among the 45 amputations, 2 patients underwent a second more proximal amputation for local tumor recurrence. Of the 17 patients with stage IV disease, 10 underwent palliative amputation for symptom control. A total of 28 patients (65%) died. Median survival after amputation was 13 months (95% confidence interval, 8-19 mo). The 6-month cumulative incidence of local recurrence was 22%. Overall survival after forequarter amputations was 42% at 1 year. Conclusions: Survival after major upper-limb amputation is poor, especially because amputations are reserved for patients with advanced tumors. However, amputation remains an option for local tumor control and can palliate symptoms in selected patients. Improvement of survival requires more effective systemic treatment strategies. Type of study/level of evidence: Therapeutic IV.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1235-1241
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Hand Surgery
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Amputation
  • malignant tumors
  • outcomes
  • survival
  • upper limb


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