Diabetes and amputation

The development of problems of this nature may not be obvious at first, as often these problems start off smaller and then progress unnoticed until it is too late if left unchecked.

For example, a diabetic patient is more susceptible to skin breakdown and the development of ulcers with the foot being a common area for concern – if diabetic ulcers are not caught and treated at an early stage the individual could end up having to have one or more of their toes amputated, or if the damage done is more advanced they may even have to have their foot or leg amputated.

At present Diabetes UK estimates that, on average, 169 amputations are performed on diabetic patients every week. It is noted that someone with diabetes is 20 times more likely to experience an amputation than someone without diabetes.

For this reason diabetic individuals should undergo an annual foot examination, with regular visits to the GP and/or podiatrist in between in order to monitor any change in their symptoms. It is estimated that a comprehensive foot care programme can reduce the risk of amputation by 45% – 85%.

What are the symptoms to look out for?

Whilst symptoms vary from one person to another, the most common symptoms to look out for are:

  • Infection – normally indicated by redness, swelling and irritation of the toes and toenails.
  • Presence of ulcers – check for areas of dry skin and eczema which appear to be worsening and failing to heal. Diabetes UK advise that studies suggest that between 70,000 and 90,000 people with diabetes have a foot ulcer in any given week.
  • Circulation problems – an obstruction of the arteries can compromise blood supply and cause your feet to feel cold.
  • Numbness – losing the feeling in your feet.

Delayed diagnosis

A diagnosis of any complication resulting from diabetes can be difficult to deal with for the patient and his or her family.  The news can be even more devastating if the diagnosis could potentially have been made earlier and further, that an earlier diagnosis could have made a significant difference to the patient’s condition.

Delays in diagnosis may arise where particular symptoms are ignored or dismissed, the necessary tests are not conducted in good time or are not interpreted and acted on appropriately.

If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms it is of the utmost importance that you contact your doctor as a matter or urgency so they can arrange for review by specialists, as with problems of this nature time is of the essence when it comes to avoiding more serious harm from occurring.

According to Diabetes UK 80% of the amputations performed on diabetic patients could be avoided if the symptoms were diagnosed and treated earlier.


Case study

Our client was an elderly Type 1 Diabetic who developed pain in his toes, identified by his GP as a diabetic pressure ulcer. There were a number of delays by the hospital in investigating an infection that developed, and a below knee amputation was ultimately unavoidable. The delay was not deemed to be negligent given that an amputation was always going to be required However, we were successful in establishing that the hospital’s failure to reach the decision to proceed to an amputation sooner resulted in 3-4 months of severe pain, an unnecessary procedure (namely an angioplasty which was inevitably not going to work), a pressure sore to his sacrum and mental anguish relating to the shock of the amputation.


How to start a claim

Our team at Royds Withy King has been developed with patients in mind and each member has a specialist knowledge of the condition of the diabetic individual and how an amputation can occur when due care hasn’t been taken.  If you feel this has happened to you, our team can advise you on what to do next.

Of course, we recognise that money can never truly compensate you or your family for what you have gone through, but it can make a big difference. A compensation claim will take into account any loss of earnings or other financial expenses that you have incurred because of the negligence, and of particular relevance to a diabetic patient the costs of any future care required.

Call or email us and one of our specialists will be more than happy to discuss your situation and assess whether we are able to be of assistance to you.

Contact us to speak to a member of our specialist medical negligence team today.