April 28, 2008 / 4:48 PM / 11 years ago

More limb amputations among blacks in Chicago: study

The i-Limb (bottom L), one of the world's first bionic hands, is seen with other prosthetic limbs in New York July 23, 2007. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

CHICAGO (Reuters) - In another indication of racial disparities in U.S. health care, a study found that blacks in Chicago are five times more likely than suburban whites to have a limb amputated, researchers said on Monday.

“Many amputations are preventable,” said Northwestern University professor of medicine Joe Feinglass. “This means the primary care for minority people may not be very good.”

About half of the people who have amputations are diabetic with decreased blood circulation to the feet. Almost all people who have amputations are smokers, which can cause hardening of the arteries and blood clots.

“These people get sores on their feet that don’t heal,” Feinglass said in a statement. “They develop an ulcer that can often turn into something worse if it’s not treated right away.”

The report, which was published in the May issue of the Journal of Vascular Surgery, said the high amputation rate among blacks in Chicago likely reflects racial disparities in healthcare.

“Diabetes is a condition that is highly susceptible to quality of care,” Feinglass said. “Amputation rates give you a basic idea of how the system is performing.”

The overall U.S. trend shows a decline in amputations since 2000, said Feinglass, who examined public health records over two decades for eight counties encompassing 8 million people in Chicago and its suburbs.

In largely black residential areas on Chicago’s South and West Sides, the rate of amputations increased to 63 amputations per 100,000 people in 2004 from 60 per 100,000 in 1987. In the largely white areas outside the city, the amputation rate dropped to 12 per 100,000 people in 2004 versus 14 per 100,000 in 1987. In mixed-race areas of Chicago and its inner suburbs, amputation rates held fairly steady at 20 per 100,000 people.

Better access to diabetes management programs to help people control their blood sugar would lessen the rate of amputations, he said.

Reporting by Andrew Stern; Editing by Michael Conlon

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