Why do some people get amputations after having sepsis?

Your blood plays many roles. Its most important is that it carries oxygen and nutrients to the organs and tissues throughout your body, from your brain to your smallest toe. After it provides the nutrients, the blood then collects the waste products and flows back to the heart and lungs for refreshing.

Usually, blood flows through your blood vessels (arteries, veins, capillaries) in a very fluid form, driven by your pumping heart, only clotting when the body senses it is necessary. Once in a while, the system does cause problems and clots may develop somewhere in the body where there shouldn’t be one. When a clot forms in a blood vessel, blood can back up behind if it is a complete blockage or, if there is still room for some blood to pass, the blood flow can slow down significantly. Some common examples of health problems caused by blood clots are deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and some types of strokes.

Blood clots in sepsis

When someone has sepsis, the clotting mechanism begins to work overtime. Tiny blood clots form throughout the blood system, making it difficult for blood to get to the body’s organs and tissues. As the small blood clots add up, they can block the blood vessels completely.

As nutrients cannot get to the tissues in the fingers, hands, arms, toes, feet, and legs, the skin begin to die and develop gangrene. At first, the skin may look mottled, bluish purple, and then black as the tissue dies.

Dead tissue must be removed because it can cause infection to spread. If the gangrenous area is small enough, the surgeon may be able to remove just enough to stop the spread. However, if the damage is extensive, an amputation may be needed.

Amputation Surgery

Prosthetics and Resources


Information regarding sepsis and amputations is also available as a Sepsis Information Guide, which is a downloadable format for easier printing.

Would you like to share your story about sepsis or read about others who have had sepsis? Please visit Faces of Sepsis, where you will find hundreds of stories from survivors and tributes to those who died from sepsis.