A cross-sectional study of post-amputation pain in upper and lower limb amputees, experience of a tertiary referral amputee clinic

Disabil Rehabil. 2010;32(22):1855-62. doi: 10.3109/09638281003734441.


Purpose: To determine the pain characteristics and health-related quality of life (HR-QOL) of upper and lower limb amputees.

Method: Amputees attending the Prince of Wales Prosthetic Clinics in 2006 were administered a questionnaire survey of their pain experiences, Short form McGill pain questionnaire, Short Form 36 (SF 36) and Pain Self-Efficacy Questionnaire (PSEQ).

Results: Of the 17 who were upper limb amputees (including the two multiple limb amputees), only 1 was pain free and of the 39 who were lower limb amputees 14 were pain free. Upper limb amputees experienced significantly greater proportion, frequency and severity of post-amputation pain than lower limb amputees. The presence of significant pre-operative pain did not correlate with the development of persistent post-amputation pain. In quality of life measures, the amputees experienced a better physical function, role physical and confidence in performance of activities than chronic pain patients attending the pain clinic. Lower limb amputees fared better than upper limb amputees in terms of bodily pain, social function and mental health. However, the amputee groups have a reduced health status in almost all domains compared to the aged matched Australian population norm.

Conclusions: The study suggests that upper limb amputees are significantly more likely to suffer post-amputation pain which is more frequent, longer lasting and more severe in intensity when compared to lower limb amputees. This is accompanied by reduced HR-QOL especially that related to bodily pain, social function and mental health. The overall health status of amputees are also significantly lower compared to the Australian population norm.

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living
  • Adult
  • Age Distribution
  • Aged
  • Amputees*
  • Australia
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lower Extremity
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Outpatient Clinics, Hospital
  • Pain*
  • Phantom Limb*
  • Quality of Life*
  • Self Efficacy
  • Sex Distribution
  • Upper Extremity