Philadelphia, PA, December 20, 2007 For U.S. veterans with diabetes, lower scores on a test of mental health functioning are associated with an increased risk of major amputations, reports a study in the November/December issue of the journal General Hospital Psychiatry.
"Our findings suggest that foot care programs need to assess individuals for mental health functioning as a risk factor and to develop appropriate interventions to counteract this higher risk of major amputation," write the study authors, led by Chin-Lin Tseng, Dr.P.H., of the VA New Jersey Health Care System, East Orange, N.J.
Dr. Tseng and colleagues analyzed a database of nearly 115,000 patients with diabetes who received care at Veterans Health Administration clinics from 1998 to 2000. All of the veterans were asked to complete a measure of mental health functioning.
Scores for mental health functioning were evaluated as a risk factor for diabetes-related amputations of the foot and leg. During 2000, "major" amputations (ankle or above) were required in 450 patients, while 431 underwent "minor" amputations (toes to ankle).
Veterans with lower scores for mental health functioning were at increased risk for amputations. This was so even when other important risk factorsincluding poor control of diabetes, smoking, less-frequent health care, and obesitywere taken into account. The overall rate of major amputations was 0.5 percent in veterans with below-average mental health scores, compared to 0.3 percent in those with above average scores and 0.2 percent for those at the highest level of mental health functioning.
On analysis including all risk factors, each five-point increase in mental health score was associated with a five percent decrease in the risk of major amputations. After adjustment, mental health functioning was no longer a significant risk factor for minor amputations.
Mental health scores were higher for veterans who ha
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