A new study shows that Minnesota had more than 4,300 amputations caused by leg artery blockages from 2005 to 2008, resulting in $88 million in hospital costs.
The statistics were compiled by the Minnesota Department of Health and the University of Minnesota as part of a collaboration exploring the impact of peripheral artery disease.
Epidemiologist James Peacock, with the Health Department's Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention Unit, said the amputation rates were higher than expected and are similar to the number of diabetes deaths in Minnesota.
"When you have 2,000 stroke deaths per year, but 1,000 people are losing a part of their lower limb, that's a lot of people," said Peacock, a co-author of the study.
Peacock said the data should inspire physicians and health systems to do more to help their patients to prevent peripheral artery disease.
Dr. Alan Hirsch, lead author of the report, works in the cardiovascular division at the University of Minnesota.
Hirsch said society needs more education about the risks of peripheral artery disease, and health systems need better prevention programs.
"Every hospital and health system and clinician in Minnesota and every other state knows what to do when chest pain occurs, and the system is very quick to bring people in for care," Hirsch said. "There is no really intact system in our state or anywhere in the country that detects and refers and treats peripheral artery disease."
The researchers found that amputations increased significantly with age, and were more common in men and in people with diabetes. The median cost of each amputation was $12,434, which reflects a fraction of the total long-term cost.
Beyond the inpatient hospitalization costs, those undergoing amputations need lifelong follow-up care and physical and rehabilitation therapy. Additionally, many individuals are unable to return to work.
Researchers also analyzed amputation rates by geographic location and found that 13 of the 17 highest ischemic amputation rates occurred in the northern half of the state, and that all but two of these counties were rural.
The study is published in the November issue of the CDC journal "Preventing Chronic Disease."