Five year mortality and direct costs of care for people with diabetic foot complications are comparable to cancer

J Foot Ankle Res. 2020 Mar 24;13(1):16. doi: 10.1186/s13047-020-00383-2.


Background: In 2007, we reported a summary of data comparing diabetic foot complications to cancer. The purpose of this brief report was to refresh this with the best available data as they currently exist. Since that time, more reports have emerged both on cancer mortality and mortality associated with diabetic foot ulcer (DFU), Charcot arthropathy, and diabetes-associated lower extremity amputation.

Methods: We collected data reporting 5-year mortality from studies published following 2007 and calculated a pooled mean. We evaluated data from DFU, Charcot arthropathy and lower extremity amputation. We dichotomized high and low amputation as proximal and distal to the ankle, respectively. This was compared with cancer mortality as reported by the American Cancer Society and the National Cancer Institute.

Results: Five year mortality for Charcot, DFU, minor and major amputations were 29.0, 30.5, 46.2 and 56.6%, respectively. This is compared to 9.0% for breast cancer and 80.0% for lung cancer. 5 year pooled mortality for all reported cancer was 31.0%. Direct costs of care for diabetes in general was $237 billion in 2017. This is compared to $80 billion for cancer in 2015. As up to one-third of the direct costs of care for diabetes may be attributed to the lower extremity, these are also readily comparable.

Conclusion: Diabetic lower extremity complications remain enormously burdensome. Most notably, DFU and LEA appear to be more than just a marker of poor health. They are independent risk factors associated with premature death. While advances continue to improve outcomes of care for people with DFU and amputation, efforts should be directed at primary prevention as well as those for patients in diabetic foot ulcer remission to maximize ulcer-free, hospital-free and activity-rich days.

Publication types

  • Letter

MeSH terms

  • Amputation, Surgical / economics*
  • Amputation, Surgical / mortality*
  • Arthropathy, Neurogenic / economics
  • Arthropathy, Neurogenic / mortality
  • Arthropathy, Neurogenic / surgery
  • Diabetic Foot / economics*
  • Diabetic Foot / mortality*
  • Diabetic Foot / surgery
  • Health Care Costs / trends*
  • Humans
  • Lower Extremity / surgery
  • Neoplasms / economics
  • Neoplasms / mortality