Amputations are somewhat common in the United States. The cause for an amputation may include circulatory disorders, infections, accidents, cancer or a congenital malformation of the limbs. What’s not common is the rate the African Americans are having this procedure take place, especially due to uncontrolled diabetes.
Uncontrolled diabetes can have a number of harmful effects to your body: Without enough insulin, or when your cells can’t use it properly, sugar courses through your bloodstream. Plaque builds up faster in your vessels’ walls, slowing the blood moving to your eyes and ankles and toes. Blindness can follow, or dead tissue. Many can’t feel the pain of blood-starved limbs; the condition destroys nerves. If arteries close in the neck, it can cause a stroke. If they close in the heart, a heart attack. And if they close in the legs, gangrene.
Despite the great scientific strides in diabetes care, the rate of amputations across the country grew by 50% between 2009 and 2015. Diabetics undergo 130,000 amputations each year, often in low-income and underinsured neighborhoods. Black patients lose limbs at a rate triple that of others.
So, not only are living less and dying younger, we are also living sicker with less limbs.
More research is coming out about this including why it’s being done. Some say it points to, in part, the policies written by hospitals, insurers and the government don’t require surgeons to consider limb-saving options before applying a blade; amputations increase, particularly among the poor.
According to research done by Mississippi Today, General surgeons have a financial incentive to amputate; they don’t get paid to operate if they recommend saving a limb. And many hospitals don’t direct doctors to order angiograms, the most reliable imaging to show if and precisely where blood flow is blocked, giving the clearest picture of whether an amputation is necessary and how much needs to be cut. Insurers don’t require the imaging, either.
But there is one doctor, Dr. Foluso Fakorede, who is trying to change all of this.
Foluso Fakorede, MD, is a practicing cardiologist and CEO of Cardiovascular Solutions of Central Mississippi as well as co-chair of the Pulmonary Artery Disease (PAD) Initiative for the Association of Black Cardiologists.
In a piece that he wrote for Fierce Healthcare, Dr. Fakorede wrote, “Research shows that African Americans with diabetes are three times more likely than white patients to have their limbs amputated as a result of…