Prevalence and characteristics of chronic phantom limb pain among American veterans. Results of a trial survey

Am J Phys Med. 1983 Oct;62(5):227-38.


Twelve hundred American amputees who are military veterans were surveyed by questionnaire about their amputations, pain sensitivity, demography, treatment history, stump problems, phantom sensations, and phantom pain. Over sixty percent responded and of these 85 percent reported significant amounts of phantom pain. This is in sharp contrast to both the literature and our clinical experience which indicate that although most amputees seen in a clinical setting report some occasional minor discomfort due to their phantoms, only between one half percent and five percent experience severe phantom pain. There was no relationship between reasons for amputation, use of prosthesis, pain sensitivity, age, years since amputation, or other demographic variables and presence of severity of phantom pain. Those respondents describing phantom pain usually had either momentary episodes of intense, debilitating pain, or virtually continuous discomfort varying in intensity but reaching debilitating levels occasionally. The fairly continuous pains were all similar in description to magnified versions of comfortable phantom sensations reported by other respondents. Few of the reported treatments were of any value.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Chronic Disease
  • Humans
  • Pain Management
  • Phantom Limb* / physiopathology
  • Phantom Limb* / psychology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Time Factors
  • United States
  • Veterans