Background: Diabetes mellitus (DM) is the most commonly reported cause of non-trauma-related lower extremity amputations (LEAs) worldwide, but there is a dearth of such information for South Africa (SA).
Objectives: To examine the proportion of LEAs due to diabetes and to describe the associated characteristics of these patients.
Methods: A retrospective analysis of all LEAs was performed in four public sector hospitals in Cape Town, SA, for 2009 and 2010. Operating theatre records were reviewed to identify all patients who had an LEA. Patient records were perused and information extracted using a structured questionnaire.
Results: Records for 941 of 1,134 patients identified as having an LEA were found (recovery rate 82.9%). Of the 867 patients with 1,280 LEAs included in the study, 925 LEAs were in 593 patients with DM and 355 LEAs in 274 non-DM patients. Therefore 72.3% (95% confidence interval (CI) 69.8-74.7) of LEAs were in people with DM, while 68.4% (95% CI 65.2-71.4) of the total patients had DM. The DM group underwent more multiple LEAs (42.0% v. 23%; p<0.001) and had more multiple admissions (14.3% v. 7.7%; p<0.005) than the non-DM group. Infection (85.7% v. 63.5%,; p<0.001) and ulcer (25.3% v. 15.3%; p=0.001) were the leading causes for LEA in the DM group compared with the non-DM group. Ischaemia was the dominant cause in the non-DM patients (49.3% v. 23.3%; p<0.001), as was smoking (69.7% v. 43.5%, p<0.001), compared with the DM patients.
Conclusions: These data demonstrate an alarming burden of LEAs due to DM in the public sector in Cape Town. Given that the majority of LEAs are preventable with adequate education, screening, treatment and follow-up, effective interventions are needed.