An investigation by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, found that between 1996 and 2008, the number of leg and foot amputations among U.S. individuals, aged 40+ with diagnosed diabetes, decreased by 65%.

The study, entitled “Declining Rates of Hospitalization for Non-traumatic Lower-Extremity Amputation in the Diabetic Population Aged 40 years or Older: U.S., 1988-2008,” is published online in the current issue of Diabetes Care.

In 1996, the age-adjusted rate of leg and foot amputations was 11.2 per 1,000 individuals with diabetes. However, in 2008 this rate fell to 3.9 per 1,000.

Non-traumatic, lower-limb amputations, refers to amputations caused by circulatory problems, rather than those caused by injuries. Circulatory problems are a prevalent adverse effect in individuals suffering with diabetes.

Furthermore, results from the study revealed that in 2008:

  • Women had lower age-adjusted rates of lower-limb amputations (1.9 per 1,000) than men (6 per 1,000)
  • Individuals aged 75+ had the highest rate (6.2 per 1,000) than people in other age groups
  • Rates were higher among blacks (4.9 per 1,000) than whites (2.9 per 1,000)

According to the researchers, the decrease in lower-limb amputations among individuals with diabetes may partially be due to factors such as: declines in heart disease, improvements in blood sugar control, as well as foot care and diabetes management.

Nilka Ríos Burrows, M.P.H., an epidemiologist with CDC’s Division of Diabetes Translation, explained:

“The significant drop in rates of non-traumatic lower-limb amputations among U.S. adults with diagnosed diabetes is certainly encouraging, but more work is needed to reduce the disparities among certain populations.

We must continue to increase awareness of the devastating health complications of diabetes. Diabetes is the leading cause of lower-limb amputations in the United States.”

After examining data from the National Hospital Discharge Survey on non-traumatic lower-limb amputations from the National Health Interview Survey on the prevalence of diagnosed diabetes from 1988-2008, the researchers discovered that the decrease in rates was higher among individuals with diagnosed diabetes than people without the disease. Although, in 2008, the rate was still approximately 8 times higher among those with the disease than those without diabetes.

Diabetes is the leading cause of non-traumatic, lower-limb amputations, kidney failure, and blindness among adults. In addition, the disease is the 7th leading cause of mortality in the U.S.. Diabetes also increases the risk of strokes, hypertension, and heart attacks.

CDC’s Division of Diabetes Translation supports prevention and control programs in all 50 states, seven U.S. territories and island jurisdictions, and the District of Columbia.

The National Diabetes Education Program provides education to enhance treatment for individuals with the disease, promote early diagnosis and prevent or delay type 2 diabetes from developing. The program is co-sponsored by CDC and the National Institutes of Health.

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Written by Grace Rattue