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Note: This report is greater than 5 years old. Findings may be used for research purposes but should not be considered current.
This report is from AHRQ's Data Points Publication Series.
In Medicare Parts A and B fee-for-service beneficiaries with diabetes, the incidence of diabetic foot ulcer is about 6.0% and lower extremity amputation about 0.5%.
Among Medicare Parts A and B fee-for-service beneficiaries with diabetes and foot ulcer, the prevalence of microvascular and macrovascular complications is about 46% and 65%, respectively. Further, among those with a lower extremity amputation, the prevalence of microvascular and macrovascular complications is about 46% and 76%, respectively.
The annual mortality rate for Medicare Parts A and B fee-for-service beneficiaries with diabetes who have an incident diabetic foot ulcer is about 11%; for those with an incident lower extremity amputation, about 22%.
Diabetes mellitus, a metabolic disorder characterized by elevated blood glucose, is a serious and growing problem. More than 23 million people in the United States (U.S.) are believed to have diabetes. It is estimated that by 2025, 300 million people worldwide will have diabetes and by 2030, 360 million people. Thus, by 2030, world-wide prevalence will approach 5 percent.
In general, the incidence of nontraumatic lower extremity amputations (LEAs) has been reported to be at least 15 times greater in those with diabetes than with any other concomitant medical illness. It has been reported that annually, about 1 to 4 percent of those with diabetes develop a foot ulcer; 10 to 15 percent of those with diabetes will have at least one foot ulcer during their lifetime.
LEA is less common but is an extreme complication associated with diabetes and foot ulcer. In the U.S., nearly 80,000 LEAs are performed on diabetics each year. In 2005, the overall rate of hospital discharge for new LEA was about 4.3 per 1,000 people with diabetes compared with a rate of about 0.3 per 1,000 in the general population.
In 2003, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC's) National Hospital Discharge Survey (www.cdc.gov/nchs/nhds.htm; data available at www.cdc.gov/diabetes/statistics/hospitalization_national.htm) reported a rate of 8 hospital discharges with a diagnosis of foot ulcer per 1,000 individuals with diabetes ages 65–74. Among patients with diabetes age 75 and over, the rate was 11 per 1,000. These data are limited because they did not include outpatient care or chronic care facilities, may have counted individuals who had venous leg ulcers, and may have counted individuals more than once if they were hospitalized more than once. Using the same dataset, the CDC estimated that the rate of LEA in 2005 was 5.3 to 5.6 per hospital discharge per 1,000 individuals with diabetes. These rates have been shown to exhibit variation by age, gender, race/ethnicity, and Dartmouth Atlas of Health Care Hospital Referral Region (HRR, www.dartmouthatlas.org).
People with diabetes often experience several associated medical complications, such as renal disease, cardiac disease, and retinopathy. These complications are often categorized as microvascular (e.g., nephropathy, retinopathy) and macrovascular (e.g., cardiac disease). Many researchers have reported an increased incidence of death among LEA patients. Depending on the study, the 1-year post-LEA mortality rate in people with diabetes is between 10 and 50 percent, and the 5-year mortaity rate post-LEA is between 30 and 80 percent.
This Data Points brief explores the incidence of foot ulcer and LEA in Medicare beneficiaries. Incidence is the number of new onsets of an illness in a specified period of time. This is distinct from prevalence, the number of people affected by an illness during a period of time. While both incidence and prevalence are important for public health decisions, the former more clearly describes the impact of a new onset of an illness, can help determine if prevention methods are successful, is useful when trying to determine risk factors for the onset of a new disease, and can be used to help gauge the severity of illness. This Data Points also examines microvascular and macrovascular complications associated with diabetes, as well as the death rate among people with diabetic foot ulcer and LEA. Refer to companion briefs for separate discussions of the prevalence of diabetes, foot ulcer, and LEA; and medical utilization and costs associated with foot ulcers and amputation.
Incidence of Foot Ulcer
Among Medicare beneficiaries continuously enrolled for at least 12 months in Parts A and B fee-for-service (FFS), continuously enrolled for each calendar year of interest (hereafter referred to as the Medicare Parts A and B FFS population; see Data Source section for a comprehensive definition), and with diabetes, the annual incidence of diabetic foot ulcer was 6.0 percent in 2006, 2007, and 2008.
The incidence of diabetic foot ulcer in the Medicare FFS subpopulation with diabetes and peripheral arterial disease (PAD) was more than two times greater, with incidence rates of 13.5 percent in 2006, 13.2 percent in 2007, and 13.1 percent in 2008.
Foot ulcer rates varied by age, gender, race/ethnicity, and geographic location. For example, in 2008, the annual incidence of foot ulcer among those with diabetes was 6.0 percent for males and 5.9 percent for females. The annual incidence of foot ulcer among beneficiaries with diabetes by race in 2008 was white, 6.0 percent; African American, 6.3 percent; Asian, 3.4 percent; Hispanic, 6.4 percent; American Indian/Alaska Native, 7.0 percent; and other, 4.0 percent. Geographic distribution of incident foot ulcer among those with diabetes varied widely based on Dartmouth Atlas of Health Care HRRs. However, the yearly incidence rates varied little from 2006 to 2008.
Incidence of LEA
Among Medicare Parts A and B FFS beneficiaries with diabetes, the annual incidence of LEA was 0.5 percent in 2006 and 2007 and 0.4 percent in 2008. The annual incidence of LEA in the Medicare FFS subpopulation with diabetes and PAD was about four times as high as the incidence in the diabetic Medicare FFS population, with a yearly incidence of 2.1 percent in 2006, 1.9 percent in 2007, and 1.8 percent in 2008. However, incidence appears to be trending down.
Incidence varied by age, gender, race/ethnicity, and geographic location. For example, in 2008, the annual incidence of LEA in the Medicare FFS population with diabetes was 0.6 percent for males and 0.3 percent for females. The annual incidence of LEA among Medicare FFS beneficiaries with diabetes by race was white, 0.4 percent; African American, 0.7 percent; Asian, 0.2 percent; Hispanic, 0.5 percent; American Indian/Alaska Native, 0.8 percent; and other, 0.4 percent. Geographic distribution of incident LEA among those with diabetes varied widely based on the Dartmouth Atlas of Health Care HRRs
Geographic variation was also affected by gender, age, race/ethnicity, as well as the presence of microvascular complications, macrovascular complications, and obesity
Other factors also affected the incidence rate of LEA. As expected, those with a prevalent foot ulcer were more likely to have an incident LEA. But the annual incidence of LEA among Medicare FFS beneficiaries with a prevalent diabetic foot ulcer trended downward. Incidence was 5.3 percent in 2006, 5.0 percent in 2007, and 4.9 percent in 2008. This finding may be reflected in the rate of osteomyelitis in those with a diabetic foot ulcer, which was 13.2 percent in 2006 and 2007 and 13.6 percent in 2008 and has been shown to be a risk factor for LEA. The annual incidence of amputation among those with a previous incident amputation was 16.7 percent in 2006, 17.5 percent in 2007, and 17.1 percent in 2008.
Individuals with diabetic foot ulcers and LEAs often have other complications associated with diabetes. Among those with diabetic foot ulcers, the prevalence of microvascular complications was 45.8 percent in 2006, 46.7 percent in 2007, and 47.6 percent in 2008. Among those with diabetic foot ulcers, the prevalence of macrovascular complications was 65.9 percent in 2006, 65.4 percent in 2007, and 65.0 percent in 2008.
The rate of death among diabetic Medicare FFS beneficiaries with a prevalent diabetic foot ulcer was 12.7 percent in 2006, 12.4 percent in 2007, and 12.3 percent in 2008. The rate of death among diabetic Medicare FFS beneficiaries with an incident diabetic foot ulcer (i.e., a new foot ulcer in the same year, but before their death) was 11.1 percent in 2006, 10.9 percent in 2007, and 10.7 percent in 2008. Mortality after a prevalent LEA was 18.2 percent in 2006, 17.5 percent in 2007, and 17.0 percent in 2008. Mortality after an incident LEA was 23.1 percent in 2006, 21.8 percent in 2007, and 20.6 percent in 2008.