There are various causes of adult upper and lower limb amputation. Most amputations occur in people older than 65 and are due to some type of associated disease like peripheral vascular disease (PVD) or diabetes.
Peripheral vascular disease is defined as any condition that affects the blood supply to the limb, causing the limb to be susceptible to infection and delayed healing. Approximately 25-50% of amputees with PVD have diabetes as well. Worldwide, approximately 50% of all lower limb amputations are performed on patients with diabetes, and approximately 5-15% percent of all persons with diabetes will undergo some type of lower limb amputation.
Other causes of PVD include frostbite, atherosclerosis - a narrowing of the arteries due to a thickening of the arterial wall which can be caused by fat, fibrous tissue and the build up of salt, and Buerger's disease - a condition where blood vessels in the limbs become diseased in individuals who smoke.
Upper limb amputations, occurring in younger people tend to be due to serious injuries. In contrast, the vast majority of acquired adult lower limb amputations are due to PVD, and are more prevalent in the over 65 age group.
An estimated 70 percent of upper limb amputations are as a result of serious injuries with the majority involving the thumb and fingers. Traumatic amputations are commonly due to injuries sustained using heavy machinery, incidents including road traffic collisions, assaults and animal attacks or accidents involving burns or electrocution.