Amputations are not only disfiguring and life-threatening, but are more dangerous and more expensive than revascularization, which is the reestablishment of blood supply. Diabetics are especially at risk for non-traumatic amputations, accounting for 82,000 non-traumatic lower extremity amputations (LEAs) in the U.S. yearly, according to the American Diabetes Association. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports more than 60 percent of LEAs occur in diabetics.
These statistics are telling, and have one of the country's leading clinical investigators and cardiologists astounded. "It is shocking that in this day and age, there is an epidemic of unnecessary amputations. Amputation is a drastic procedure that takes a great physical and emotional toll on patients and their families. But physicians often jump too quickly to amputation rather than exploring medical advances that can prevent limb loss," said Dr. Craig Walker, of the Cardiovascular Institute of the South, in Houma, La.
Walker is a pioneer in a medical procedure to combat these trends: Cool Laser Revascularization for Peripheral Artery Therapy, or "CLiRpath."
"In the U.S. alone, there are approximately 1.8 million people living with limb loss," Walker said, citing National Limb Loss Amputation Center statistics. "A good portion of these individuals could have salvaged their limbs. This is tragic." Of note:
--The number of diabetes-related LEA hospital discharges increased by 240 percent between 1980 (33,000) to 2002 (82,000), according to the CDC.--The CDC says the five-year survival rate for all lower extremity amputees is less than 50 percent. For diabetic ampute