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Long-term health and quality of life experiences of Vietnam veterans with combat-related limb loss

Abstract

Purpose

This paper describes the long-term health and quality of life (QOL) outcomes of Vietnam veterans with combat-related limb loss.

Methods

This mixed-method, cross-sectional study analyzes survey data of 247 Vietnam veterans with combat-related limb loss measuring several comorbidities [measured as ever diagnosed], PTSD using the PTSD Checklist Military (PCL-M), depression using the Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-8), and QOL using the SF-12. In-depth interviews with 20 such veterans about their health and QOL experiences were conducted.

Results

Of 247 Vietnam veterans, most report good to excellent health (79.7 %) and several comorbidities: arthritis (61.1 %), cardiovascular disease (18.2 %), diabetes (22.7 %), obesity (17.4 %), phantom-limb pain (76.1 %), back pain (76.5 %), PTSD (15.8 %), and depression (17.8 %). Those with depression fared worse on the SF-12 physical component summary score (PCS), whereas those with arthritis, depression, and PTSD fared worse on the SF-12 mental component summary score. Interview data describe these comorbidities and QOL from the veterans’ perspective and illustrate how such comorbidities may be directly related to the veterans’ combat and/or limb loss experiences.

Conclusion

The prevalence of these health issues and the adverse effects of some of these on QOL underscore the importance of effective rehabilitation over the life course, especially including better mental health care and pain management.

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Acknowledgments

The authors acknowledge the Indiana-Ohio Center for Traumatic Amputation Rehabilitation Research and its co-directors, Drs. Mark Sothmann and Stephen Wilson, for their support in conducting this research under terms of Grant #W81XWH-09-1-0375, “ Creating the Indiana-Ohio Center for Traumatic Amputation Rehabilitation Research,” from the US Department of Defense. Use of the data, conclusions, and opinions expressed in this work are the sole responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the conclusions or opinions of the Indiana-Ohio Center or the Department of Defense. We also acknowledge David Bodenhamer, Phil Scarpino, Janna Bennett, Robbie Janik, Karen Comer, Denise Dearth, Mike Buchannon, Gary May, and Chad McMahon for their help with various parts of this project.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study. The authors secured human subjects approval for this research from the US Department of Defense and Indiana University Research Compliance Administration.

Ethical standard

All procedures performed in this study were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

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Correspondence to Carrie E. Foote.

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Foote, C.E., Kinnon, J.M., Robbins, C. et al. Long-term health and quality of life experiences of Vietnam veterans with combat-related limb loss. Qual Life Res 24, 2853–2861 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11136-015-1029-0

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11136-015-1029-0

Keywords

  • Quality of life
  • Veterans
  • Pain
  • Mental health
  • Limb loss