Amputation is a surgical procedure where either a portion or all of a limb is permanently removed. Although it is perhaps the earliest of all surgical procedures it is rarely used today. It is used in cases of severe aggressive infection (such as necrotizing fasciitis) or severe crushing trauma to the limb. However, even in the later case, reconstructive vascular surgery is far more common.
Amputation requires the surgeon to cut through skin, muscle, bone, ligaments and nerves until they are severed from the rest of the body. Prior to the development of anesthetics in the 19th century, the operation had to be performed as quickly as possible to prevent the patient from dying of shock. Today, the operation is performed much more carefully to allow the surgeon to cleanly sever the affected portions, leaving a cleaner wound that is easier to guard from infection.
Many patients who have had amputations suffer from phantom pain, a feeling that comes from the missing limb despite its absence.
In Humpty Dumpty, House presses to have a patient's hand amputated where he realizes that the flesh in the hand is severely infected and will spread to the rest of the body once the flesh in the hand is dead. In this instance, the amputation saved the patient's life and allowed the diagnostic team to diagnose the underlying infection.