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Long-term lower extremity prosthetic costs in children with traumatic lawnmower amputations.

OBJECTIVES: To evaluate prosthetic costs of pediatric lawnmower amputations; to see if reducing the incidence of pediatric lawnmower amputations could result in significant cost savings; and to consider if a cost analysis could be useful to implement more safety features (voluntarily or legislatively).

DESIGN: Pediatric lawnmower amputees from 1980 to 2000 were reviewed to determine age at time of injury, level of amputation, number of prostheses, and lifetime per prosthesis. A standard prosthetic program beginning at amputation and ending at age 18 years was constructed. An aggregate cost was calculated according to the proportion of amputation levels. The cost burden for prosthetic care was estimated from the statistics of US pediatric lawnmower injuries.

SETTING: Referral pediatric orthopedic center.

PATIENTS: Fifty-three lower extremity amputees with 58 lower extremity amputations at a mean +/- SD age of 4.7 +/- 2.5 years were reviewed.

RESULTS: The percentage of amputee children injured by riding lawnmowers was 80%; the percentage injured by riding lawnmowers engaged in reverse was 39%. Prosthetic costs from the time of injury to the age of 18 years range from 73,140 dollars to 116,040 dollars per single lower extremity amputation. With 600 to 650 new childhood amputations per year due to lawnmowers, the new annual burden for prosthetic costs thus ranges from 43.88 to 75.42 million dollars, or (600)(73,140 dollars) to (650)(116,040 dollars).

CONCLUSIONS: Further encouragement of lawnmower manufacturers to install improved safety devices (such as those to disengage power while in reverse mode of operation), new research on improved safety measures, and continued promotion of educational campaigns regarding the dangers of children being around and/or operating riding lawnmowers and garden tractors should be pursued. This will result in significant cost savings as well as incalculable health savings.

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