Background. A surgical risk model is used to analyze postoperative mortality and late survival for older veterans who underwent above- or below-knee amputations in 119 Veterans Affairs (VA) hospitals from 1991 to 1995. Methods. Preoperative medical conditions and laboratory values abstracted by the VA National Surgical Quality Improvement Program were linked to subsequent hospitalization and survival through 1999. Logistic regression and proportional hazards models were used to develop risk indexes for postoperative mortality and long-term survival. Results. Thirty-day postoperative mortality was 6.3% for 1909 below-knee and 13.3% for 2152 above-knee amputees. Mortality varied greatly between the lowest-highest risk index quartiles (0.8%-18.4% for below-knee amputation and 2.3%-31.1% for above-knee amputation). Surviving patients had 10,827 subsequent VA hospitalizations during a median 32-month follow-up. Survival probabilities for below- and above-knee amputees were 77% and 59% at 1 year, 57% and 39% at 3 years, and 28% and 20% at 7.5 years. The lowest quartile of survival risk had a 61% five-year survival compared with 14% for the highest-risk quartile. Conclusion. A generic surgical risk model can be of use in stratifying prognosis after major amputation. The heavy burden of hospital use by these patients suggests the need for better disease management for this high-risk, high-cost patient population.
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