Background: Despite being a major determinant of functional independence, ambulation after major limb amputation has not been well studied. The purpose, therefore, of this study was to investigate the relationship between a variety of preoperative clinical characteristics and postoperative functional outcomes in order to formulate treatment recommendations for patients requiring major lower limb amputation.
Methods: From January 1998 through December 2003, 627 major limb amputations (37.6% below knee amputations, 4.3% through knee amputations, 34.5% above knee amputations, and 23.6% bilateral amputations) were performed on 553 patients. Their mean age was 63.7 years; 55% were men, 70.2% had diabetes mellitus, and 91.5% had peripheral vascular disease. A retrospective review was performed correlating various preoperative presenting factors such as age at presentation, race, medical comorbidities, preoperative ambulatory status, and preoperative independent living status, with postoperative functional endpoints of prosthetic usage, survival, maintenance of ambulation, and maintenance of independent living status. Kaplan-Meier survival curves were constructed and compared by using the log-rank test. Odds ratios (OR) and hazard ratios (HR) with 95% confidence intervals were constructed by using multiple logistic regressions and Cox proportional hazards models.
Results: Statistically significant preoperative factors independently associated with not wearing a prosthesis in order of greatest to least risk were nonambulatory before amputation (OR, 9.5), above knee amputation (OR, 4.4), age > 60 years (OR, 2.7), homebound but ambulatory status (OR, 3.0), presence of dementia (OR, 2.4), end-stage renal disease (OR, 2.3), and coronary artery disease (OR, 2.0). Statistically significant preoperative factors independently associated with death in decreasing order of influence included age > or = 70 years (HR, 3.1), age 60 to 69 (HR, 2.5), and the presence of coronary artery disease (HR, 1.5). Statistically significant preoperative factors independently associated with failure of ambulation in decreasing order of influence included age > or = 70 years (HR, 2.3), age 60 to 69 (HR, 1.6), bilateral amputation (HR, 1.8), and end-stage renal disease (HR, 1.4). Statistically significant preoperative factors independently associated with failure to maintain independent living status in decreasing order of influence included age > or = 70 years (HR, 4.0), age 60 to 69 (HR, 2.7), level of amputation (HR, 1.8), homebound ambulatory status (HR, 1.6), and the presence of dementia (HR, 1.6).
Conclusions: Patients with limited preoperative ambulatory ability, age > or = 70, dementia, end-stage renal disease, and advanced coronary artery disease perform poorly and should probably be grouped with bedridden patients, who traditionally have been best served with a palliative above knee amputation. Conversely, younger healthy patients with below knee amputations achieved functional outcomes similar to what might be expected after successful lower extremity revascularization. Amputation in these instances should probably not be considered a failure of therapy but another treatment option capable of extending functionality and independent living.