Choosing life or limb. Improving survival in the multi-complex diabetic foot patient.
Over two decades ago, the St. Vincent Declaration set a 50% reduction of lower-limb amputations as a principal target for patients with diabetes. During this time, enormous strides have been taken in our understanding of diabetic foot disease, the complexities of wound healing and the organization of care to prevent what is one of the most feared complications of the disease. Despite this, we are aware that worldwide, we have not achieved the target set in 1989, with current estimations being that a limb is lost to diabetes somewhere in the world every 30 s. However, it has to be remembered that amputation is a treatment and not a disease, and it is indeed a treatment usually prescribed at the end of a long chronic illness. It is well known that patients whose disease is severe enough for amputation to be considered frequently have other complications of their diabetes, cardiovascular and peripheral vascular diseases and end-stage renal disease, in particular. The life expectancy of the patients is therefore frequently reduced, and their functional status poor even prior to the intervention of surgeons. Just as the functional status of the patients is often a contra-indication to other disease treatments, chemotherapy for some cancers, for example, then we should be considering carefully whether we should be removing limbs from patients whose functional and medical status will not improve significantly as a result. Equally, there may be patients who may benefit from an early amputation and ambulation with a prosthesis.