Objectives: To determine the characteristics of phantom limb sensation, phantom limb pain, and residual limb pain, and to evaluate pain-related disability associated with phantom limb pain.
Design: Retrospective, cross-sectional survey. Six or more months after lower limb amputation, participants (n = 255) completed an amputation pain questionnaire that included several standardized pain measures.
Setting: Community-based survey from clinical databases.
Participants: A community-based sample of persons with lower limb amputations.
Main outcome measures: Frequency, duration, intensity, and quality of phantom limb and residual limb pain, and pain-related disability as measured by the Chronic Pain Grade.
Results: Of the respondents, 79% reported phantom limb sensations, 72% reported phantom limb pain, and 74% reported residual limb pain. Many described their phantom limb and residual limb pain as episodic and not particularly bothersome. Most participants with phantom limb pain were classified into the two low pain-related disability categories: grade I, low disability/low pain intensity (47%) or grade II, low disability/high pain intensity (28%). Many participants reported having pain in other anatomic locations, including the back (52%).
Conclusions: Phantom limb and residual limb pain are common after a lower limb amputation. For most, the pain is episodic and not particularly disabling. However, for a notable subset, the pain may be quite disabling. Pain after amputation should be viewed from a broad perspective that considers other anatomic sites as well as the impact of pain on functioning.