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J Bone Joint Surg Am. 1999 Oct;81(10):1384-90.

Long-term follow-up study of bilateral above-the-knee amputees from the Vietnam War.

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  • 1University of Louisville, Kentucky, USA.



Because caring for patients who have combat-related amputations is a discontinuous practice, military surgeons must relearn treatment techniques during each conflict.


The purpose of the present long-term study (average duration of follow-up, 27.5 years) was to document the status of patients who had sustained a bilateral above-the-knee amputation in Vietnam and had been managed by the only separate amputee service in the United States Army. A review of the records of 484 battle amputees identified thirty individuals (6 percent) who had a bilateral above-the-knee amputation. Twenty-six (87 percent) of the thirty patients had been injured by a land mine or a booby trap. Fifty-three (88 percent) of the sixty limbs were amputated because of trauma, and the other seven (12 percent) were amputated secondarily because of infection. Data regarding education, employment, marriage and family life, prosthetic use, and psychological care were collected by mail or telephone for twenty-three (85 percent) of the twenty-seven surviving patients. Respondents also completed the Short Form-36 (SF-36) Health Survey.


At the time of the study, five (22 percent) of the twenty-three respondents used prostheses for walking; the devices were used for an average of 7.7 hours per day. Sixteen respondents (70 percent) were or had been employed outside of the home since the time of discharge. The physical functioning score on the SF-36 questionnaire was significantly lower for the study group than it was for a group of age and gender-matched controls (p < 0.001; Student two-tailed t test). With the numbers available, no significant differences could be detected between the groups with regard to physical role functioning (p = 0.377), bodily pain (p = 0.603), general health (p = 0.407), vitality (p = 0.949), social functioning (p = 0.460), emotional role functioning (p = 0.029), or mental health (p = 0.102).


The patients in the present study have led relatively normal, productive lives within the context of their physical limitations.

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