The Amputation Risk for Diabetes Patients

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A recent study published in the journal 'Diabetologia' undertook research into the levels of lower-leg amputations in adults with and without diabetes by reviewing the hospital episode statistics over 3 years compared with the Primary Care Trusts in England. It was found that the amputation rates for diabetes patients are up to 10 times higher in the South West and some parts of England.

Why is it that diabetes patients are at a higher risk of lower-leg amputation?

Diabetes mellitus (commonly known as Diabetes) can be defined as a chronic condition associated with abnormally high levels of glucose in the blood due to absence of, or insufficient production of, or autoimmune resistance to the pancreatic hormone, insulin. This can in turn lead to ulcers, foot deformities, nerve and muscle damage and circulation problems which can lead to gangrene, and are all factors which put patients at a higher risk of requiring a lower-leg amputation.

Diabetes.co.uk has expressed a belief that with correct foot care and education, limb loss as a result of diabetes can be avoided.

Any individuals suffering from diabetes, even where they have good control of their blood sugar, need to ensure that they get their feet and legs checked regularly and if they have any concerns they see their GP or specialist as soon as possible.

However, whilst I think it is important to note that this is a clear risk to be aware of, I am not trying to scare diabetics, and although over the three years that this study was carried out, 48.9% (16,693) of the patients who had amputations were diabetic, by 2009 there were over 2.2 million people who had been diagnosed with diabetes in England and this does not take into account the number of patients suffering from undiagnosed diabetes. With careful blood-sugar monitoring, and regular and appropriate follow-up, most diabetics can enjoy a normal lifestyle and avoid serious complications.

Kirsteen Hook

Trainee Solicitor - Clinical negligence team

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