Approximately 40-60% of all amputations of the lower extremity are performed in patients with diabetes. More than 85% of these amputations are precipitated by a foot ulcer deteriorating to deep infection or gangrene. The prevalence of diabetic foot ulcers has been estimated to be 3-8%. The complexity of these ulcers necessitates a multifactorial approach in which aggressive management of infection and ischemia is of major importance. For the same reason, a process-oriented approach in the evaluation of prevention and management of the diabetic foot is essential. Healing rates of foot ulcers are unknown with the exception of specialised centres where it is between 80-90%. The negative consequences of diabetic foot ulcers on quality of life include not only morbidity but also disability and premature mortality. Costs for healing ulcers are high and even higher for ulcers resulting in amputation, due to prolonged hospitalisation, rehabilitation, and need for home care and social service for disabled patients. Therefore, one of the most important steps to reduce cost in the management of the diabetic foot is to avoid amputations. A cost-effective management should not only be focused on the short-term cost until healing but also on the long-term cost, since foot ulcer and especially amputation are related to increased re-ulceration rate and lifelong disability. A multidisciplinary approach including preventive strategy, patient and staff education, and multifactorial treatment of foot ulcers has been reported to reduce the amputation rate by more than 50%.
Copyright 2000 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.