Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

The Number of Diabetic Amputations Among Black Patients is Climbing

Feb 28, 2024 |

A black man with glasses, Shelton Echols, smiles with a forest behind him

As the number of Americans with Type-2 diabetes continues to increase, another alarming trend is the percentage of those people who are minorities. According to a study from the National Library of Medicine, Black and Latino diabetics are four times more likely to get an amputation than other ethnicities. Often steps can be taken before an amputation is necessary, but due to a lack of awareness of treatments, many minorities are not receiving the critical care that would save their limbs.  

In this ABC News segment, Severed: Diabetes Denial and Mistrust, medical experts weighed in and patients explain their experiences when it comes to this aspect of care. A complication of diabetes, Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD), can cause decreased blood flow and lead to wounds that won’t heal. One of the men interviewed, Shelton Echols, noticed a cut on his leg that wasn’t healing which resulted in the amputation of his left leg.  

Black female doctor and patient visit in a doctor's officeDue partly to bias in healthcare, often black patients undergo premature or more severe amputations that could have been avoided. “Very often, their symptoms are ignored,” said cardiologist Dr. Richard Browne. “Very often, they are not given adequate information about options.”  

Another factor in this population is that many black patients have a distrust of medications even if they aren’t insulin injections. The news study talks about the racial history behind this wariness and how it is impacting patients today who refuse diabetes drugs. A simple test known as the ankle brachial index (ABI test), which compares blood pressure in the upper and lower limbs, is an easy way to tell if there is a problem with circulation. 

Not to be overlooked, there is also a correlation between more favorable outcomes for patients who are taken care of by medical professionals from a similar background. “Quite frankly, there is evidence that if you are taken care of by someone who looks like you, you’re more likely to comply with their recommendations,” Dr. Browne added.