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Black Diabetics are More Likely to Lose a Limb

Update Date: Oct 15, 2014 11:30 AM EDT

Type 2 diabetes is a chronic health condition that is very manageable through medication, diet and exercise. When the illness is left untreated, however, it can lead to severe consequences, such as limb amputation. According to a new report out of the Dartmouth Atlas Project, black diabetics are more likely to get a limb surgically removed than other groups of diabetics.

"There are certain parts of the country where the disparity is larger," said lead author Dr. Philip Goodney, Director of the Center for the Evaluation of Surgical Care at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, New Hampshire to Reuters Health. "We now tried to identify which types of patients are at the highest risk."

For this study, the researcher examined Medicare claims that were filed from 2007 to 2011. The claims included patients diagnosed with diabetes suffering from peripheral arterial disease, which occurs when plaque accumulates in the arteries and prevents blood from flowing to the legs. Data also included diabetes care, surgical treatments for diabetes-related complications and amputations.

Overall, the researchers found that leg amputation rates were the highest in black people, and in patients living in the Southeast and in rural areas. Black patients were less likely to receive routine preventive care for diabetes when compared to other patients. For example, 82 percent of non-black patients had a blood lipids test in 2010 whereas only 75 percent of black patients did as well.

Black diabetics were also three times more likely to need a leg amputation and underwent more surgical procedures to treat diabetic complications when compared to other groups of diabetics. The incidence rate for amputations in black diabetics was 5.6 procedures per 1,000 patients, which is much higher than rate calculated in non-black patients, which was two procedures per 1,000 people.

"In Chicago people with diabetes who live in predominantly black areas have a much higher rate of amputation," commented Dr. Marshall Chin, director of Finding Answers: Disparities Research for Change, a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, who was not a part of the new report. "These are entirely preventable, this shouldn't happen."

The report can be found here.

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