Possible incremental benefits of specialized rehabilitation bed units among veterans after lower extremity amputation

Med Care. 2009 Apr;47(4):457-65. doi: 10.1097/MLR.0b013e31818b08c6.


Background: Little is known about the effect of different types of inpatient rehabilitation on outcomes of patients undergoing lower extremity amputation for nontraumatic reasons.

Objective: To compare outcomes between patients who received inpatient rehabilitation on specific rehabilitation bed units (specialized) to patients who received rehabilitation on general medical/surgical units (generalized) during the acute postoperative period.

Methods: This was an observational study including 1339 veterans who underwent lower extremity amputation between October 1, 2002 and September 30, 2004. Data were compiled from 9 administrative databases from the Veterans Health Administration. Propensity score risk adjustment methodology was used to reduce selection bias in looking at the effect of type of rehabilitation on outcomes (1-year survival, home discharge from the hospital, prescription of a prosthetic limb within 1 year post surgery, and improvement in physical functioning at rehabilitation discharge).

Results: After applying propensity score risk adjustment, there was strong evidence that patients who received specialized versus generalized rehabilitation were more likely to be discharged home (risk difference = 0.10), receive a prescription for a prosthetic limb (risk difference = 0.13), and improve physical functioning (gains on average 6.2 points higher). Specialized patients had higher 1-year survival (risk difference = 0.05), but the difference was not statistically significant. The sensitivity analysis demonstrated our findings to be unaffected by a moderately strong amount of unmeasured confounding.

Conclusions: Receipt of specialized compared with generalized rehabilitation during the acute postoperative inpatient period was associated with better outcomes. Future studies will need to look at different intensity, timing, and location of rehabilitation services.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Amputation, Surgical / rehabilitation*
  • Databases as Topic
  • Humans
  • Lower Extremity / surgery*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Models, Statistical
  • Rehabilitation Nursing / methods*
  • Risk Adjustment
  • Selection Bias
  • Specialization*
  • Treatment Outcome
  • United States
  • Veterans*