Association of Race, Ethnicity, and Rurality With Major Leg Amputation or Death Among Medicare Beneficiaries Hospitalized With Diabetic Foot Ulcers

JAMA Netw Open. 2022 Apr 1;5(4):e228399. doi: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2022.8399.


Importance: Patients identifying as Black and those living in rural and disadvantaged neighborhoods are at increased risk of major (above-ankle) leg amputations owing to diabetic foot ulcers. Intersectionality emphasizes that the disparities faced by multiply marginalized people (eg, rural US individuals identifying as Black) are greater than the sum of each individual disparity.

Objective: To assess whether intersecting identities of Black race, ethnicity, rural residence, or living in a disadvantaged neighborhood are associated with increased risk in major leg amputation or death among Medicare beneficiaries hospitalized with diabetic foot ulcers.

Design, setting, and participants: This retrospective cohort study used 2013-2014 data from the US National Medicare Claims Data Database on all adult Medicare patients hospitalized with a diabetic foot ulcer. Statistical analysis was conducted from August 1 to October 27, 2021.

Exposures: Race was categorized using Research Triangle Institute variables. Rurality was assigned using Rural-Urban Commuting Area codes. Residents of disadvantaged neighborhoods comprised those living in neighborhoods at or above the national 80th percentile Area Deprivation Index.

Main outcomes and measures: Major leg amputation or death during hospitalization or within 30 days of hospital discharge. Logistic regression was used to explore interactions among race, ethnicity, rurality, and neighborhood disadvantage, controlling for sociodemographic characteristics, comorbidities, and ulcer severity.

Results: The cohort included 124 487 patients, with a mean (SD) age of 71.5 (13.0) years, of whom 71 286 (57.3%) were men, 13 100 (10.5%) were rural, and 21 649 (17.4%) identified as Black. Overall, 17.6% of the cohort (n = 21 919), 18.3% of rural patients (2402 of 13 100), and 21.9% of patients identifying as Black (4732 of 21 649) underwent major leg amputation or died. Among 1239 rural patients identifying as Black, this proportion was 28.0% (n = 347). This proportion exceeded the expected excess for rural patients (18.3% - 17.6% = 0.7%) plus those identifying as Black (21.9% - 17.6% = 4.3%) by more than 2-fold (28.0% - 17.6% = 10.4% vs 0.7% + 4.3% = 5.0%). The adjusted predicted probability of major leg amputation or death remained high at 24.7% (95% CI, 22.4%-26.9%), with a significant interaction between race and rurality.

Conclusions and relevance: Rural patients identifying as Black had a more than 10% absolute increased risk of major leg amputation or death compared with the overall cohort. This study suggests that racial and rural disparities interacted, amplifying risk. Findings support using an intersectionality lens to investigate and address disparities in major leg amputation and mortality for patients with diabetic foot ulcers.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Amputation, Surgical
  • Diabetes Mellitus*
  • Diabetic Foot* / epidemiology
  • Diabetic Foot* / surgery
  • Ethnicity
  • Female
  • Hospitalization
  • Humans
  • Leg
  • Male
  • Medicare
  • Retrospective Studies
  • United States / epidemiology