As with any surgery, limb salvage surgery poses a number of risks and potential complications. Major risks associated with this procedure are infection at the site of the surgery, blood loss and anemia from the surgery, loosening, shifting, or breakage of implants, and the rapid loss of blood flow or sensation in the affected limb.
There is also a risk of postoperative infection, a potentially serious problem. Chemotherapy and radiation therapy, which are often used along with limb salvage surgery, can weaken the immune system. In addition, tissue can die if the surgeon uses a large piece of tissue to close the wound, which is most likely to happen if the surgical site was treated with radiation.
Prognosis for limb salvage surgery
Cancer patients who have had limb salvage surgery have as good a prognosis as those whose extremity was amputated, and salvaged limbs function better than artificial ones. Still, patients who have had a lower-limb salvage may take up to a year to walk again, and those who have undergone an upper-extremity salvage need to learn new ways to use their affected arm or hand. In addition, limb salvage surgery is associated with a higher risk of cancer recurrence than amputation, but because there is often no difference in survival rates, this is seen as an acceptable risk.