Major limb amputations in the Marshall Islands: Incidence, prosthetic prescription, and prosthetic use after 6-18 months

Rehabilitation Services, Majuro Hospital, C/o 34 Fairway Road, Doncaster, Australia 3108.
Pacific health dialog: a publication of the Pacific Basin Officers Training Program and the Fiji School of Medicine 04/2005; 12(1):59-66.
Source: PubMed


The Republic of the Marshall Islands has been recognised anecdotally to have high rates of major lower limb amputations secondary to diabetes. During 2001, a prosthetics service was introduced as part of the rehabilitation service at Majuro Hospital.
1. To determine the incidence of major lower limb amputations over a one year period from 2002 to 2003. 2. To evaluate the proportion of patients suitable for prosthetic fitting. 3. Determine survival rates and usage of prostheses six to eighteen months after prosthetic fitting.
Amputation rates were established through review of the surgical logs at the two hospitals in the Marshall Islands. Prosthetic fitting rates were determined using records from Majuro hospital rehabilitation service. Follow up interviews were conducted with fifteen surviving patients who received prostheses during the study period, to investigate prosthetic use.
The incidence of major lower limb amputation was found to be 79.5 per 100,000 population, with all forty-five amputations being associated with diabetes. Just over a third of these patients were discharged from rehabilitation with a prosthesis. Fifteen of the patients were followed up post discharge. All of the thirteen with transtibial amputations were found to be using their prosthesis at least some of the day. The two patients with transfemoral amputations had ceased to walk with their prosthesis.
This study identified a very high rate of lower limb amputation in the Marshall Islands by world standards. Prosthetic fitting rates and follow up results were comparable to those reported by others, and indicate that small, geographically isolated island nations such as the Marshall Islands are able to provide a successful prosthetics and rehabilitation service locally.

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    • "Adjustment to a standard world population gave an age-adjusted prevalence of diabetes in adults 30 or more years of age of 27% (Yamada, Dodd, Soe, Chen, and Bauman, 2004). Over a one year period (2002-2003), the rate of major lower limb amputations for the Marshall Islands was 79.5/100,000, with amputations being performed on patients as young as 30 (Harding, 2005). "
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