Rise in number of amputations due to diabetes complications

The number of lower limb amputations has increase over the past three years.

The number of lower limb amputations has increase over the past three years. - Credit: Archant

A ‘shocking’ number of lower limb amputations have been carried out on diabetes patients in North Somerset over the past three years.

From 2014-17, 118 amputations were carried out – a 31 per cent increase compared to 2010-2013.

Although the total figures are up, the number of major amputations – from below the knee – has dropped slightly, while the minor operations have risen.

The reduction in major operations has been put down to North Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group’s (CCG) work to improve foot care.

Phaedra Perry, Diabetes UK South West regional head, said: “The shocking number of lower limb amputations caused by diabetes grows year on year.

“An amputation, regardless of whether it’s defined as minor or major, is devastating and life-changing.

“A minor amputation can still involve losing a whole foot.

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“To reduce the number of diabetes-related amputations, we are calling on NHS England to maintain the Diabetes Transformation Fund beyond 2019.

“Many diabetes amputations are avoidable, but the quality of foot care for people living with diabetes can vary significantly.

“Thanks to transformation funding in the South West, we have started to see a reduction in major amputations and an improvement in how quickly people with diabetes are referred to specialists when they have foot problems.

“We trust clinical commissioning groups will continue to prioritise foot care to now secure a reduction in minor amputations and continue to work with us to bring down amputations overall.”

People with type one and type two diabetes are more at risk of developing problems in their feet because high blood sugar levels can damage blood vessels, affecting how blood flows to the feet and legs.

Unhealed ulcers and foot infections are the leading cause of diabetes-related amputations, with diabetic foot ulcers preceding more than 80 per cent of amputations.

Since 2017, NHS England’s Diabetes Transformation Fund has invested more than £80million across England to improve access to specialist foot care teams to help people with diabetes look after their feet and avoid amputations.