Combat-incurred bilateral transfemoral limb loss: a comparison of the Vietnam War to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq

J Trauma Acute Care Surg. 2012 Dec;73(6):1590-5. doi: 10.1097/TA.0b013e318265fe64.


Background: This study is a comparison of the self-reported health status, quality of life, function, and prosthetic use of veterans with bilateral transfemoral limb loss following combat injury in either the Vietnam War or the recent conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, to learn what improvements in surgery, prosthetics, and rehabilitation have occurred.

Methods: Subjects were identified from Veteran's Administration and military databases. A cross-sectional survey was conducted of service members with bilateral transfemoral amputation who participated in a larger survey of service members with any type of amputation associated with a battlefield injury from the Vietnam War or Operation Iraqi Freedom/Operation Enduring Freedom (OIF/OEF). The survey was conducted by mail, telephone, or Web site during 2007 to 2008.

Results: There were 501 subjects in the Vietnam group and 541 in the OIF/OEF group with any type of limb loss. Bilateral transfemoral amputation was reported in 23 (7.7%) of 298 of the Vietnam group and 10 (3.5%) of 283 of the OIF/OEF group (χ test, p = 0.04). Self-reported health status was rated as good to excellent in 40% of the Vietnam group and 80% in the OIF/OEF group (p = 0.04). Quality of life was rated as good to excellent in 54.6% of the Vietnam group and 70% of the OIF/OEF group (not significant). Wheelchair use is reported by 22 of 23 subjects in the Vietnam group and all of the subjects of the OIF/OEF group. Of the Vietnam group, 8 (34.7%) of 23 currently use prostheses versus 7 (70%) of 10 of the OIF/OEF group (χ test, p = 0.13). The mean (SD) number of prostheses currently used is 1.0 (1.9) for the Vietnam group and 4.0 (5.2) for the OIF/OEF group (p = 0.022).

Conclusion: Participants who served in OIF/OEF and those who served in Vietnam report comparable quality of life. Prosthetic use continues to be a problem, especially as the service member ages.

Level of evidence: Epidemiologic study, level III.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living
  • Adult
  • Afghan Campaign 2001-*
  • Amputation, Traumatic / epidemiology
  • Amputation, Traumatic / rehabilitation*
  • Amputation, Traumatic / surgery
  • Artificial Limbs
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Iraq War, 2003-2011*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multiple Trauma / epidemiology
  • Multiple Trauma / rehabilitation
  • Multiple Trauma / surgery
  • Quality of Life
  • United States
  • Veterans / statistics & numerical data
  • Vietnam Conflict*