What Happens to Amputated Limbs?

happens-amputated-limbs Credit: Christopher Malcolm/The Image Bank/Getty Images

The Sisters of Providence Health System reports that amputated limbs are disposed of by the hospital or a patient makes his own arrangements for burial or cremation of the limb. The fate of an amputated limb is determined by the patient, and he must consent to either outcome.

The Sisters of Providence Health System states that following amputation, limbs and other body parts are sent to a morgue refrigerator. Refrigeration allows a pathologist ample time to complete his report of the condition of the extremity. When a patient consents to hospital disposal, limbs are disposed as medical waste after all examinations are complete. When a patient elects to make his own arrangements for a limb, the limb is sent to a funeral home for burial or cremation.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulates the disposal of body parts, including limbs, through the Medical Waste Tracking Act of 1988. According to EnvironmentalChemistry.com, the EPA does not allow amputated limbs to be disposed of in their original form. First, the limb must be rendered unrecognizable and free of biological threats. Methods of disposal include shredding and autoclaving or incineration, with the latter method preferred by most medical facilities. After appropriate processing, the remains are discharged into a sanitary sewer system or delivered to a landfill.