Limb Loss and Limb Difference: US Prevalence and Impact

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Avalere and the Amputee Coalition analyzed claims data to understand the prevalence of limb loss and limb difference and the implications for public policy.

“Limb loss” (LL) is the loss of an extremity due to injury or disease, while “limb difference” (LD) is a condition in which an individual has a limb that is anatomically different in size, shape, or structure compared to “typical” limbs, usually as a result of a congenital condition or childhood injuries affecting growth. Individuals living with these conditions may have functional or mobility impairments ranging from those that have little to no impact on their daily lives, to those that require major modifications to their home or work, multiple custom assistive devices to regain mobility and independence, or caregiver assistance – in addition to substantial psychological effects.    

Researchers do not have a clear or up-to-date picture of LL or LD prevalence: a 2008 study predicted that by 2050, approximately 3.6 million people will be living with LL in the United States, while research on LD prevalence is relatively scarce. Updated estimates are needed to understand who is living with LL or LD so that further research can focus on identifying their most pressing needs and the best ways to meet those needs. To fill this evidence gap, Avalere collaborated with the Amputee Coalition, funded by a grant from the Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Community Living, to analyze claims data to estimate the overall incidence and prevalence of LL and LD, their underlying causes, and variation among demographic and clinical subpopulations.   

We conducted a retrospective analysis of 2016–2021 Medicare, Medicaid, and commercial insurance claims to identify the incidence and estimate the prevalence of LL and LD. We found that on average, each year 507,293 individuals experienced LL or were born with LD. While the annual incidence of LL (464,644) is approximately ten times higher than that of limb difference (42,650), the estimated number of individuals living with limb difference (3.4 million) is nearly 50% higher than those living with limb loss (2.3 million). These findings demonstrate the need for policies that ensure accessible and inclusive communities for individuals living with these conditions. Developing effective strategies for prevention, early intervention, and comprehensive care can reduce excess healthcare costs associated with these conditions while improving health outcomes and quality of life for those affected.   

Funding for this research was provided by the Amputee Coalition, supported by a grant from the Administration for Community Living within the Department of Health and Human Services. Avalere retained full editorial control.

Download the white paper, “Prevalence of Limb Loss and Limb Difference in the United States: Implications for Public Policy”

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