Incidence and morbidity of concomitant spine fractures in combat-related amputees

Adam J. Bevevino*, Ronald A. Lehman, Scott M. Tintle, Daniel G. Kang, Theodora C. Dworak, Benjamin K. Potter

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Background context: High-energy blasts are the most frequent cause of combat-related amputations in Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom (OIF/OEF). The nondiscriminating effects of this mechanism often result in both appendicular and axial skeletal injuries. Despite this recognized coincident injury pattern, the incidence and consequence of spine fractures in trauma-related combat amputees are unknown. Purpose: This study sought to determine the incidence and morbidity of the associated spine fractures on patients with traumatic lower extremity amputation sustained during OIF/OEF. Study design/setting: Retrospective case control. Patient sample: Two hundred twenty-six combat-related lower extremity amputees presenting to a single institution and injured between 2003 and 2008 were included for analysis. Outcome measures: Physiologic and functional outcome measures were used to determine the influence of spine fractures on combat amputees. Physiologic measures included intensive care unit (ICU) admission rates, injury severity score (ISS), rate of narcotic/neuropathic pain use, and heterotopic ossification (HO) rates. Functional outcome measures included return-to-duty rates and ambulatory status at final follow-up. Methods: Data from 300 consecutive combat-related lower extremity amputations were retrospectively reviewed and grouped. Group 1 consisted of amputees with associated spine fractures, and Group 2 consisted of amputees without spine fractures. The results of the two groups were compared with regard to initial presentation and final functional outcomes. Results: A total of 226 patients sustained 300 lower extremity amputations secondary to combat-related injuries, the most common mechanism being an improvised explosive device. Twenty-nine of these patients had a spine fracture (13%). Group 1 had a higher ISS than Group 2 (30 vs. 19, p<.001). Group 1 patients were also more likely to be admitted to the ICU (86% vs. 46%, p<.001). Furthermore, Group 1 patients had a significantly higher rate of HO in their residual limbs (82% vs. 55%, p<.005). Conclusions: The incidence of spine fractures in combat-related amputees is 13%. The results suggest that combat-related amputees with spine fractures are more likely to sustain severe injuries to other body systems, as indicated by the significantly higher ISS and rates of ICU admission. This group also had a significantly higher rate of HO formation, which may be attributable to the greater local and/or systemic injuries sustained by these patients.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)646-650
Number of pages5
JournalSpine Journal
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Apr 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Functional outcome
  • Incidence
  • Lower extremity amputee
  • Morbidity
  • Spine fractures


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