What is the “True” Weight of Amputees?
After Ofri had his belowknee amputation, we were joking at home saying one positive way to look at it is to see the weight loss caused by the amputation :). Already at the hospital, after the surgery and later in the rehabilitation center, we’ve heard numbers varying from 1.5 to 2.5 kg weight loss due to the amputation. Ofri is a belowknee amputee and his amputation is roughly 2/3 of the leg away from the knee (in other words, the lower third of the leg is gone). The number for the missing leg weight sounded reasonable so we never tried to look deeper into this issue.
Recently, I’ve seen people raising this question. In an attempt to calculate their BMI, they ran into the question: “what would be the weight of my missing leg/arm?”, “how can I estimate my total body weight, had I not been amputated?” When I saw someone apologizing for asking such a “stupid” question, I decided to look for an answer. Remember, when it comes to the quality of life of the amputee, there are no stupid questions.
Weight of Limb Segments
The table below lists the weight of the human body limb segments as weight percentage of the total body weight. Data are taken from a scientific paper published at the Journal of Biomechanics by DeLeva on 1996 [1].

Upper Arm 
Forearm 
Hand 
Thigh 
Leg 
Foot 
Women 
2.55 
1.38 
0.56 
14.78 
4.81 
1.29 
Men 
2.71 
1.62 
0.61 
14.16 
4.33 
1.37 
Table 1. Weight of limb segments (percentage of total body weight)
Note that values for limb segments weight represent a statistical average and that all individuals exhibit some deviations from the average in their proportions between body segments. Also note that there is a clear difference in limb segment weight between women and men. It is not surprising to see that the average arm, hand and foot of the average man weighs more than these same limb segments in a woman’s body (relative to the total body weight).
How should we read these data? Since the weight of a limb segment is given in percentage of the body weight, we have to take the data entry of interest, multiply by the body weight and divide by 100. For example, the weight of the forearm of a man weighing 92 Kg would be 1.62×92/100 namely, 1.49 Kg. The weight of the thigh of a woman weighing 130 punds would be 14.78×130/100 namely, 19.2 pounds.
Weight of an Amputated Limb
Let us now continue to calculate the weight of the amputated limb. For a belowknee leg amputee, this would mean adding the weight of the foot to the weight of the missing section of the leg. An aboveelbow arm amputee would have to add the weights of the hand, the forearm and the missing part of the upper arm. In such calculations we ignore the basic conical structure of our limbs and assume that each limb segment is a cylinder of uniform diameter.
To make it clear, let’s look into the following case examples:
 Man, belowknee amputee, approximately 3/4 of the leg amputated – in this case we will add up the weight of the foot (1.37) and three quarters of the leg (0.75×4.33). The resulting weight percentage is 4.62%. Therefore, a man weighing 165 pounds will loose 7.62 pounds following a 3/4 leg, belowknee amputation.
 Woman, aboveknee amputee, approximately half the thigh amputated  here we add the weight of the foot (1.29), the full weight of the leg (4.81) and half the weight of the thigh (0.5×14.78). The resulting weight percentage is 13.5%. Therefore, a woman weighing 58 Kg will loose 7.83 Kg following a halfthigh, aboveknee amputation.
 Woman, belowelbow amputee, approximately 2/3 of the forearm amputated  we add the weight of the hand (0.56) and two thirds of the forearm (0.67×1.38). The resulting weight percentage is approximately 1.5%. Therefore, a woman weighing 140 pounds will loose 2.1 pounds following such a below elbow amputation.
 Man, aboveelbow amputee, approximately quarter upper arm amputated  we add the weight of the hand (0.61), the full weight of the forearm (1.62) and quarter the weight of the upper arm (0.25×2.71). The resulting weight percentage is 2.9%. Therefore, a woman weighing 200 pounds will loose 5.8 Kg following such an above elbow amputation.
BMI Calculations for Amputees
To calculate the Body Mass Index (BMI) of an amputee, we first need to know the “true” body weight of the amputee i.e. the body weight had he/she not been amputated. After obtaining the weight of the amputated limb as explained in the above paragraph, we may proceed to calculate the “true” body weight of the amputee. This will be given by:
So, if an amputee has lost say, 3% of his/her body weight as a result of the amputation, the “true” body weight would be the present weight times 100 divided by 97. 5% weight loss due to amputation means a “true” weight of 100/95 times the present weight, etc.
To further calculate the Body Mass Index (BMI) of an amputee, we need to take the result obtained for the “true” body weight and plug it in the BMI formula:
Note the 703 conversion factor between the UK and US unit systems.
Seems complicated? Having trouble calculating your “amputee BMI”, your “true” weight, or your weight loss due to your amputation? Don’t be shy. Ask us below and we’d be happy to help. If we receive enough requests, we’d consider creating an automatic calculator to calculate the weigth of your lost limb and your BMI :).
[1] DeLeva, P (1996). Adjustments to ZatsiorskySeluyanov’s segment inertia parameters. Journal of Biomechanics, v.29 (9),
pp.12231230.
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