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Rise in number of major limb amputations

Increasing prevalence of diabetes is responsible and white men are most likely to require amputations

Ingrid Torjesen

Wednesday, 03 April 2019

The number of major lower limb amputations (above the ankle) is continuing to rise, data from the Diabetes Foot Care Profiles, published by Public Health England’s (PHE) National Cardiovascular Intelligence Network, shows.

The overall number of major amputations is increasing, as the number of people with diabetes rises. Between 2015/16 to 2017/18, there were 7,545 major amputations compared with 6,957 between 2012/13 to 2014/15.


The risk of diabetes is higher in some ethnic groups, particularly those from South Asia, but the rate of major amputations caused by diabetes is actually greatest in white males.

Between 2015/16 and 2017/18, patients in England had 147,067 hospital stays for diabetic foot disease. In total 85,837 individual patients were admitted for foot disease, and 33% of these had more than one stay.

The average length of stay in hospital was eight days and the total number of days spent in hospital for diabetic foot disease in that three-year period was 1,826,734

The rate of major amputations was greatest among men (10.5/10,000 population-years compared with 4.9 in women) and the white population (9.6/10,000 compared with 2.6 in the non-white population).

Dr Jenifer Smith, programme director at PHE for the NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme, said: “It’s a tragedy that so many people are unnecessarily having to face the life-changing consequences of diabetes, such as amputations. Survival rates and quality of life for people following such major surgery can often be poor. This shouldn’t be happening when the condition is preventable.”

She added that the NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme has been hugely successful in providing help and support to people at risk of developing the condition, which is why it is being doubled in size.

The prevalence of type 2 diabetes is set to rise from 3.9 million in 2017) to 4.9 million by 2035 – which will mean 9.7% of the adult population will have the condition.

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