National Limb Loss Information Center - Fact Sheet

Limb Loss in the United States

by the NLLIC and the Limb Loss Research and Statistics Program (LLR&SP)
Revised 2007

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Limb loss affects a variety of people in the United States and around the world and includes people of every race, ethnicity and background without regard to geographic location, occupation or economic level. In 2007, there are approximately 1.7 million persons living with limb loss in the U.S. * Datasource: Unpublished paper from Johns Hopkins.

The main cause of acquired limb loss is poor circulation in a limb due to arterial disease, with more than half of all amputations occurring among people with diabetes mellitus. Amputation of a limb may also occur after a traumatic event or for the treatment of a bone cancer. Congenital limb difference is the complete or partial absence of a limb at birth.

Table 1.0 Persons Living with Limb Loss, 1996*
Age Group Frequency
< 18 years 70,000
18 - 44 years 293,000
45 - 64 years 305,000
65 - 74 years 395,000
75+ years 223,000
Male 893,000
Female 392,000
White 1,188,000
Black 98,000
*Absence of extremity, excluding fingers and toes.
DATA SOURCE: National Health Interview Survey, Vital Statistics Report, Series 10, No. 200.


There are approximately 185,000 amputation related hospital discharges each year in the U.S. The number of new cases of limb loss is greatest among persons with diabetes, with 1 out of every 185 persons diagnosed undergoing amputation of a limb. (See table 2.0)

Limb difference occurs in 1 in 3,846 live births in the U.S., or at a rate of 2.6 per 10,000 live births. Congenital upper limb difference occurs 1.6 times more often than lower limb difference.

Table 2.0 New Cases of Limb Loss, 1996
  Incidence per 10,000 persons
Dysvascular Disease* 4.6
Diabetes Mellitus** 54.0
Trauma 0.6
Bone and Joint Cancer 0.04
  Incidence per 10,000 live births
Limb Difference 2.6
*Not including persons with diabetes mellitus.
**Among persons diagnosed with diabetes mellitus.
DATA SOURCE: Health Care Utilization Project National Inpatient Sample (HCUP-NIS), 1996.


Most individuals experiencing the loss of a limb have the potential to attain a high degree of function and a satisfying quality of life. However, disability may result in persons with limb loss as a result of secondary conditions, such as back pain and phantom pain in the amputated limb as well as vascular and orthopedic complications.


Use of prosthesis or artificial limb among amputees can assist with ambulation and participation in activities of daily living. It is estimated that approximately 199,000 persons in the U.S. were using an artificial limb in 1994, with the majority using an artificial leg or foot (173,000). * Datasource: National Center for Health Statistics, Disability Report. Table 1


The risk of limb loss increases with age, with persons aged 65 years or older having the greatest risk of amputation. As with diabetes and heart disease, smoking, lack of exercise and improper nutrition may also increase the risk of limb loss. Certain racial and ethnic groups are at increased risk of amputation (e.g. African-Americans, Native Americans and Hispanic Americans)

Back to Top Last updated: 07/23/2012

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