Background: Limb salvage for severe trauma has replaced amputation as the primary treatment in many trauma centers. However, long-term outcomes after limb reconstruction or amputation have not been fully evaluated. Methods: We performed a multicenter, prospective, observational study to determine the functional outcomes of 569 patients with severe leg injuries resulting in reconstruction or amputation. The principal outcome measure was the Sickness Impact Profile, a multidimensional measure of self-reported health status (scores range from 0 to 100; scores for the general population average 2 to 3, and scores greater than 10 represent severe disability). Secondary outcomes included limb status and the presence or absence of major complications resulting in rehospitalization. Results: At two years, there was no significant difference in scores for the Sickness Impact Profile between the amputation and reconstruction groups (12.6 vs. 11.8, P=0.53). After adjustment for the characteristics of the patients and their injuries, patients who underwent amputation had functional outcomes that were similar to those of patients who underwent reconstruction. Predictors of a poorer score for the Sickness Impact Profile included rehospitalization for a major complication, a low educational level, nonwhite race, poverty, lack of private health insurance, poor social-support network, low self-efficacy (the patient's confidence in being able to resume life activities), smoking, and involvement in disability-compensation litigation. Patients who underwent reconstruction were more likely to be rehospitalized than those who underwent amputation (47.6 percent vs. 33.9 percent, P=0.002). Similar proportions of patients who underwent amputation and patients who underwent reconstruction had returned to work by two years (53.0 percent and 49.4 percent, respectively). Conclusions: Patients with limbs at high risk for amputation can be advised that reconstruction typically results in two-year outcomes equivalent to those of amputation.
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