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What Is Amputation And Why Are Diabetics More At Risk Of Losing A Lower Limb?

Regular vascular screening and atherectomy  can help save limbs and prevent amputation

You’ve probably heard of amputation but do you know what it means in medical terms? Don’t worry, most people don’t know the answer, which is why we thought we’d post an article defining amputation, its drawbacks, and an explanation of how an atherectomy can prevent the need for amputation. So keep reading to learn more …

In this blog post, you’ll discover:

So, let’s start with a definition of the term ‘amputation’

In medical terms, an amputation is described as being the partial or complete removal of a patient’s extremity such as a leg, foot or toe.

Typically, amputations require a patient to stay in hospital anywhere from 5 to 14 days depending on the surgery and any complications that may arise from the amputation.

Currently, 2.1 million people are living in the USA with limb loss and that number is forecast to double by 2050.

185,000 amputations are carried out each year – that’s a staggering 300 to 500 amputations each day.

What’s more, 85% of lower limb amputations were the result of a foot ulcer, so if you have diabetes, it’s vital that you understand what amputation really means!

What causes amputation?

While there are several causes for amputation, without a doubt, the most common cause is poor circulation – or Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD) – a complication of diabetes.  

Peripheral Artery Disease tends to affect the lower extremities as the blood flow to those areas is restricted by narrowing of the arteries and in severe cases a blockage that causes poor circulation. Eventually, a lack of healthy blood flow may cause symptoms such as diabetic foot or leg ulcers that will not heal, and gangrene.    

These symptoms can get so bad, that without treatment, a patient may require limb amputation.

Other causes for amputation include traumatic injury and in rare cases, cancer-related symptoms.

Downsides of amputation

While for some patients, amputation may be the last resort, many patients aren’t even aware that other options are available. One of the major drawbacks of amputation is the financial burden it places on the patient as well as the medical system in general. For example, in 2017, patients with limb loss were facing lifetime health care costs of $509,275 as compared to $361,200 for patients who had not lost a limb. And in 2009, the figure for amputation costs in US hospitals was more than $8.3 billion.  

But that’s not all …

Other downsides associated with amputations include loss of independence, shorter survival rates and increased levels of depression.

Nearly half of the patients who have an amputation because of vascular disease will die within 5 years. Scarily, this is higher than the rate of death for patients suffering from cancer of the colon, breast, and prostate.

Furthermore, of the individuals who have a lower limb amputation, up to 55% will need their other leg to be amputated within 2-3 years.

In fact, the severity of amputation is such that a study revealed that patients with diabetic foot disease are more fearful of having lower-extremity amputation than they are of death.

All of the above negative consequences of amputation confirm the importance of getting a second opinion to see if there is an alternative answer to amputation. For example, many patients with diabetes, Peripheral Artery Disease and Lower Limb Ischemia are never told about the option of an atherectomy to save their limb.

Get a second opinion before amputation

Dr. Goke Akinwande, a Vascular and Endovascular Specialist here at MINT, specializes in PAD screening, state-of-the-art endovascular treatments and amputation prevention. He believes many needless amputations could have been prevented had a person sought a second opinion.

If you or a loved one has been told they need an amputation without even attempting to open up the blood vessels to restore healthy blood flow and circulation, then please seek a second opinion – it can be the difference between life and limb.

The team at MINT, perform the latest vascular technologies in the office under mild sedation. All procedures are minimally invasive and use real-time imaging to guide a catheter through your artery to the point of blockage. All that’s needed is a pinhole incision.

Earlier, we mentioned a procedure known as an atherectomy which is used to restore blood flow and prevent amputation. This involves using a specialist device that grinds or cuts away the plaque that is causing a blockage. We use only the latest technologies with patient safety and comfort at the forefront of everything we do.

Patients benefit significantly from atherectomy since it returns healthy blood flow through the artery which is necessary to heal a wound and salvage the limb. Healthy blood flow improves circulation and in doing so, prevents the need for extremity or limb amputation.

Other procedures include a balloon angioplasty that flattens the plaque against the artery wall, enabling the blood to flow freely once more or placing a stent (small mesh tube) into the artery once the plaque has been removed, to keep it open.

What is amputation prevention?

Quite simply, it refers to taking early and aggressive steps to heal and preserve your legs, feet and toes. The program begins with vascular screening to assess your risk and diagnose PAD at its earliest stage.

If you are diagnosed with diabetes and/or PAD, then be proactive and book a FREE vascular screening at one of our 5 clinics, including the latest addition in Chicago, IL.

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