Reduction of amputation rates among Alaska Natives with diabetes following the development of a high-risk foot program

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Schraer, Cynthia Dodgen ; Weaver, Daniel ; Naylor, Julien Louise ; Provost, Ellen ; Mayer, Ann Marie (2004)
  • Publisher: Co-Action Publishing
  • Journal: International Journal of Circumpolar Health (issn: 1797-237X, eissn: 1239-9736)
  • Related identifiers: doi: 10.3402/ijch.v63i0.17869
  • Subject: diabetes, amputations, Alaska Natives, foot care

Objective. The prevalence of diabetes is increasing rapidly among Alaska’s Indian, Eskimo and Aleut populations. Approximately half the Native people with diabetes have no road access to hospitals or physicians, presenting a challenge in the attempt to prevent lower extremity amputation as a complication. In late 1998 funding became available for diabetes prevention and treatment among Native Americans. The tribal health corporations in Alaska decided to use a portion of this funding to implement a high-risk foot program to decrease the amputation rate. Program Design. The program initially involved a surgical podiatrist who provided training to local staff and performed preventive and reconstructive surgery on several patients with impending amputations. The program then provided training for a physical therapist to become a certified pedorthist. This individual established the long-term maintenance phase of the program by conducting diabetic foot clinics routinely at the Alaska Native Medical Center, a referral center in Anchorage. He also travels to other regions of the state to provide training for village and hospital-based health care providers and to conduct field clinics. A system was established in a common database management program to track the patients’ foot conditions. Patient education is emphasized. Results. The overall amputation incidence among all Alaska Native patients with diabetes decreased from 7.6/1,000 in the pre-program period (1996 to 1998) to 2.7/1,000 in the post-program period (1999-2001)(p<.001). The rate among Aleuts, who previously had the highest amputation incidence, decreased from 17.4/1,000 to 3.1/1,000 over the same time periods (p<.001). Among people who had had diabetes at least 10 years, the overall amputation incidence decreased from 16.4/1,000 to 6.8/1,000 (p=.021); among Aleuts the rate fell from 24.5/1,000 to 2.6/1,000 (p=.01). Conclusions. Though longer follow-up is needed, these data suggest that even in populations living in isolated regions, diabetic amputations can be prevented by a coordinated system to identify high-risk feet and provide preventive treatment and education in the context of a comprehensive diabetes management program in an integrated health system.Keywords: diabetes, amputations, Alaska Natives, foot care
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