Amputation among diabetics is increasingly becoming a last resort, as doctors find new ways of saving patients' legs.
Many doctors are now inserting stents or tiny balloons to "open up" narrowed or blocked blood vessels. Some also carry out surgery to bypass the problem parts altogether. This improves blood circulation in the legs and helps wounds to heal better. Poor control of diabetes can cause blood circulation problems, which slow down the wound healing process and make diabetics more susceptible to infections.
"As surgeons, we try not to amputate any part of the leg or foot, but it is often a necessary operation... to remove the gangrenous or infected part of the limb in order to save a patient's life or prevent serious infection," said Dr Chee Yu Han from NUS Medicine’s Department of Orthopaedic Surgery. Dr Chee also works at the National University Hospital's orthopaedic surgery department.
In Singapore, hospitals perform around four diabetes-related amputations a day, or about 1,500 a year. A 2015 report by the International Diabetes Federation revealed that Singapore has the second-highest proportion of diabetics among developed nations.