Focus on Amputation Prevention…by the numbers

Melody Brumble

By the numbers

80,000: number of people with diabetes in the United States who have amputations each year.
75: percentage of diabetic amputations that could have been prevented through early detection and education oIMG_8397 those at risk of ulcers.
55: percentage of diabetics who will need amputation of second leg within two or three years of first amputation.
Don’t take your feet for granted.

Twenty-eight million Americans risk losing a foot, leg or other limbs because of chronic diseases. This month, the Amputee Coalition, a national group dedicated to supporting amputees and preventing unneeded amputations, is marking Limb Loss Month. Louisiana is among states participating in the first-time event.

Diabetes and vascular disease are the leading causes of amputations. The amputation rate of 1.66 per 1,000 Louisiana Medicare recipients is the highest in the nation. In some parts of the state, the amputation rate is even higher — 5 per 1,000 Medicare recipients — and blacks have a higher amputation rate than white patients.

Registered nurse Collette Brown, a diabetes educator with Willis-Knighton Health System, has seen it too often.

“When I worked at the dialysis center, we would have patients come in with one amputation, and it wasn’t uncommon that in a year or two, they got a second amputation,” Brown said..

Now Brown works with newly diagnosed diabetics in groups and one on one to help them try to avoid complications like amputation.

“We encourage them to control three different factors: their A1c, which is the three-month average blood sugar, their cholesterol and triglyceride levels and their blood pressure, which we want to be less than 130 over 80,” she said. “We also talk to them about stopping smoking because we typically find that the higher blood sugars run over time, along with smoking, damages blood vessels.”

The damage keeps blood from flowing to a person’s feet and legs, which can prevent wounds from healing and cause nerve damage. Chronic wounds and infection are a primary reason for amputation among diabetics.

“We tell them to look at their feet every single day and to report anything, no matter how small, to the doctor,” Brown said.

The Amputee Coalition is working on similar education campaigns with a Web site and public events. The nonprofit organization created the awareness month to show people that amputations go beyond “wounded warriors” — soldiers injured in Afghanistan and Iraq — or athletes who compete with prostheses.

“The fact is, limb loss affects every generation, from young to old anwwd people from all walks of life,” said Kendra Calhoun, president and CEO of the organization.

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