Austin has scored 14 goals in the Championship this season to help fire Harry Redknapp's side into second in the table, but the former Burnley man has been ruled out indefinitely with a shoulder injury.
The 24-year-old suffered the problem during QPR's victory over Bolton Wanderers on Tuesday.
"Charlie went for a scan on Wednesday afternoon and unfortunately it has shown he has suffered an injury to his shoulder," club doctor Peter Florida told QPR's official website.
"He's done some damage to the bone and cartilage in the joint, as well as the soft tissues around it, and will need an operation to correct the problem.
"We'll start his rehabilitation immediately but he's likely to be sidelined for a prolonged period."
Austin took to Twitter to express his frustration, adding that he hopes to return to the fold in time to help QPR's push for promotion straight back to the Premier League.
"I'm obviously desperately disappointed," he wrote on his official profile. "Injuries are part and parcel of football but I was really enjoying my football so it’s a bitter blow.
"I'll work tirelessly in my rehabilitation to make sure I return as quickly as possible and in the meantime, support the lads as we continue to push for promotion."
QPR's dependency on Austin for goals is highlighted by the fact their second highest goalscorer this season is Matt Phillips with just three.
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