SAN ANTONIO ‑ Infantry troops in the U.S. Army were the most likely to suffer an amputation, according to a recent retrospective study looking at injury rates and likelihood of returning to duty.
Researchers from Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio looked at major extremity amputations sustained by U.S. servicemembers between Oct. 1, 2001, and July 30, 2011.1
Using the amputation database, Joint Trauma Theater Database, and the Physical Evaluation Board Liaison Office, study authors focused on demographics, amputation location(s), Injury Severity Scores (ISSs), disabling conditions, disability ratings, and disposition status.
Of the 1,221 major extremity amputees identified during the specified timeframe, 899 had data regarding disabling conditions, ratings, and disposition, according to the study report.
While members of all service branches were represented, the Army infantry, the Marine Corps infantry and the Army’s Armor Branch were the top three, accounting for more than 57% of all amputees.
Most servicemembers sustaining an amputation, 89%, were unable to return to duty. Army Special Forces (USA SF) operatives were significantly more likely to return to duty (p = 0.0022) and be found fit for duty (p = 0.0015) than servicemembers in other specialties, however. That was despite having a mean ISS (20) that was no different from those of other amputees. The authors pointed out that none of the Special Forces members were diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorders as a result of their disabling condition.
“All amputees, regardless of [military occupational specialty] are not likely to return to active duty and especially unlikely to be found fit for duty, except for members of the USA SF,” the authors concluded. “The reason(s) for the increased return to duty for USA SF personnel remains unknown but a lack of posttraumatic stress disorder may be a contributing factor.”
1 Belisle JG, Wenke JC, Krueger CA. Return-to-duty rates among US military combat-related amputees in the global war on terror: job description matters. J Trauma Acute Care Surg. 2013 Aug;75(2):279-86. doi: 10.1097/TA.0b013e31829bb777. PubMed PMID: 23887560