Hero Image

Syme's amputation


Life after amputation can bring new and unplanned challenges for both you and your family. It can mean finding ways to do things differently – even everyday tasks. If you experience a Syme’s amputation, the impact might not be as profound as a more severe amputation. But that doesn’t mean you should be expected to carry on without the advice and support you need.

At Shoosmiths, we appreciate just how much a Syme’s amputation can affect somebody. And it’s not just in a physical sense, but emotionally as well. If you lose part of a foot through no fault of your own, our amputation claims solicitors are here to help. Find out more about what a Syme’s amputation can mean for you and your family – and what Shoosmiths can do for you too.

What is Syme’s amputation?

In its simplest sense, Syme’s amputation is the removal of your foot through the ankle joint. This ultimately means the whole foot is removed – but the lower leg is left intact. While your foot will be removed, however, the heel pad can be saved. And this means that it may be possible to put weight on the leg without the need for an artificial limb (prosthesis).

The name ‘Syme’s amputation’ comes from Scottish physician James Syme’s, who first published a paper in 1842 describing the procedure. Syme’s was unhappy at the number of limbs lost when a different procedure may have saved them. This applied particularly to patients who had suffered crushing injuries caused by trauma, non-healing ulcers, Charcot Foot or osteomyelitis.

Boyd v Syme’s amputation: What is the difference?

Like a Syme’s amputation, the Boyd procedure also takes place at the level of the ankle. The main difference, however, is that it retains the heel bone (calcaneus) and heel pad. As part of the heel bone is left and joined to the tibia, it can offer much more weight-bearing ability. But this type of amputation is technically harder to perform than a Syme’s amputation.

Are there different types of Syme’s amputation?

In a conventional Syme’s amputation, it is common for the forefoot and midfoot to be removed. It is also possible, however, that someone might experience a different form of the procedure. This can depend on the condition that calls for amputation – and the likely outcome or benefit.

Distal Syme’s amputation

If you suffer from an infection such as osteomyelitis in the toe, a distal Syme’s amputation may be the best option. It can be the result of toe ulcers or wounds caused by diabetes. It often involves the removal of the wound, toenail and tissue underneath the nail, as well as the distal phalanx.

Terminal Syme’s amputation

Terminal Syme’s amputation is the partial removal of the end of a toe. The amputation will usually take place at the joint nearest the end of the affected toe. It is one surgical option where the toe is deformed, which then leads to pain at the tip of the affected toe.

What injuries would lead to Syme’s amputation?

An amputation is often a last resort. No doctor or surgeon will decide to remove a limb if it could otherwise be saved. But there are a number of situations in which a Syme’s foot amputation might become the preferred course of action to take.

In some cases, it could be the result of a wound, ulcer, infection or other complication caused by another condition. For people with diabetes, there is a higher risk of foot issues. A 2017 report from the NHS revealed that 10% of diabetes sufferers will develop a foot ulcer at some point.

It is a factor that is contributing to a rising number of diabetes-related amputations in England.

But there can also be times where a Syme’s amputation is the result of an accident – whether it is traumatic or surgical after the event. If this happens to you or a loved one, it can be really tough to come to terms with as it is something you simply cannot plan for.

It can be even more upsetting if a Syme’s amputation is the result of something that was not your fault. From accidents at work to surgical errors, our legal specialists can help you make a claim if the actions or inactions of someone else led to the cause of your Syme’s foot amputation.

To see if you have a claim, talk to our team by calling 0370 086 8686 or sending us a message.

What is the Syme’s amputation surgical technique?

In the 1950s, surgeons would perform a Syme’s amputation in two stages. First, it would involve the removal of the foot. About six to eight weeks later, a second operation would take place to firmly attach the fat pad of the heel to the stump of the tibia and fibula. This would be to create a platform on which to stand.

Now, however, advances in Syme’s amputation surgical technique mean the operation is done in one sitting. A section of the lower end of the tibia and fibula is cut around half an inch from the distal ends. Next, the fat and skin of the heel are drawn forward and attached to the stump. To finish, a soft dressing and cast are applied to help with recovery.

How common is Syme’s amputation?

Based on data from NHS hospitals in England for 2018-19, the amputation of a foot through the ankle is fortunately rare enough. During the 12-month period, there were 51 finished consultant episodes (FCEs) – a fall of almost one-fifth when compared with the previous 12 months.

Just because Syme’s amputation is rare, however, it does not make it any easier to cope with in the weeks and months after. It can sometimes call for specialist care or rehabilitation to help you or a loved one rebuild your life.

And that is something that we can help with if someone else is at fault. Get in touch today to see what support we can offer after a Syme’s amputation. Call 0370 086 8686 or send us a message.

What is the impact of a Syme’s foot amputation?

From balance to mobility, our feet are such an important part of the body – and maybe more so than we sometimes think. After all, feet are what connect us to the ground. As such, removing a foot (or even just part of it) can have a huge impact on how you do things.

After a Syme’s amputation, you could find that you move differently. It can also cause issues with keeping your balance when stood up for an extended period of time. But Syme’s amputation can – at least – allow you to put weight on your leg without the need for a prosthetic limb.

No matter the cause or outcome of a Syme’s amputation, remember – it doesn’t mean you (or a loved one) must stop doing the things you love. It just takes the right level of care, advice and support – and that’s something that our team of specialists can help make sure of.

What are the risks involved?

One of the biggest risks involved with Syme’s amputation is the wound not healing properly. This can cause infection or – in worst case scenarios – further amputation at a higher level. It is also possible for ulcers to develop on the heel pad stump if put under too much pressure.

Much like any other amputation, people who go through a Syme’s amputation can sometimes feel sensation in the removed foot (phantom limb).

How can Syme’s amputation affect someone?

In the legal and other forms of support we provide to people after an amputation, we see all too often how much it can affect that individual – and those closest to them. For some, the recovery process can be a relatively straightforward one. For others, however, it can be a trickier task.

First, there are the physical changes that need adapting to. A Syme’s amputation prosthesis can help achieve this. Shoosmiths works closely with leading experts in the field to ensure that you (or a loved one) can get a prosthetic limb that maintains your movement and independence.

We can also put you in touch with physiotherapists and rehabilitation specialists you can rely on.

Our team is acutely aware of the emotional toll that amputation will take – both on you and your family. It is why we aim to provide you with holistic support shaped by your exact needs. It doesn’t just include expert legal guidance and post-operative care either.

We’re here to be your trusted friend in difficult times. Call 0370 086 8686 or send us a message  for a free initial consultation to find out how. If you lose all or part of a foot and someone else is at fault, our specialist amputation claims solicitors are ready to get to work on your behalf.

What help can Shoosmiths provide?

The impact of Syme’s amputation isn’t something that you and your family need to endure alone. We are here to help and want to put you back on track in life – even if it seems as if the journey ahead will be tough. No matter if there are challenges to come, we’ll help you overcome them.

You can read how we helped others in similar situations – and learn just what we can do for you and your family. By calling 0370 086 8686 or sending us a message, talk to us about your Syme’s amputation experience for free and in confidence. With us, there’s no obligation either.

We can tell you if we think you have a Syme’s amputation compensation claim. We can also let you know what recovery or rehabilitation options may be available to you. For more useful information, follow the links below:



This information is for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. It is recommended that specific professional advice is sought before acting on any of the information given. © Shoosmiths LLP 2022

Contact our experts

Sorry, there are a few problems with the information you have entered. Please correct these before continuing.


One moment please...

Thank You

Your submission has been received. We'll be in touch soon.