Amputation Prevention learn about the best ways to prevent Amputation - Peripheral Vascular Associates
Amputation Prevention learn about the best ways to prevent Amputation - Peripheral Vascular Associates

Amputation Prevention learn about the best ways to prevent Amputation


Many of us have a friend, family member, or neighbor with an amputated leg. Why does this happen?

Most amputations in the USA are because of poor blood flow getting to the foot and/or leg, usually complicated by infection. What does “poor blood flow” mean? “Poor blood flow” means that the amount of blood getting to the leg and/or foot is less than it is supposed to be.

Blood has both red cells and white cells. Blood flow to the legs brings oxygen in the red cells, but it also brings the white cells, which are essential to fighting infection. With “poor blood flow” (sometimes called ‘poor perfusion’), the wound/infection does not heal because:

1) The wound does not have enough oxygen to heal and,
2) The wound does not have enough white cells to fight the infection.

Diabetes is often the cause of this poor blood flow, even though many diabetics have normal circulation. Diabetes causes arteries to be blocked with calcium and cholesterol plaque. When the arteries that carry the blood become clogged, everything beyond the blockage suffers from poor blood flow.

Imagine that arteries are like train tracks, and the train cars are like blood cells. If the train tracks are blocked, the train cannot deliver their cargo (red cells and white cells). Everything past beyond the blocked tracks will suffer. Diabetes causes many health issues, and one of the most common is blocked arteries. Blocked arteries are often the problem that leads to amputation.

The best treatment, of course, is to avoid diabetes altogether. Diet and lifestyle are top of the list to help avoid or even reverse diabetes. But once the diabetes is present, understanding the signs of poor circulation are very helpful and not all that complicated to identify.

To begin with, normal arterial blood flow should be easy to feel with your finger. A pulse on the top of the foot is normally present, just like the pulse at your wrist. If you can feel this pulse, that is an strong sign of adequate circulation. Check your foot, and that of anyone you know who is a diabetic. If the pulse is not there, that is a red flag.

Get a vascular test using an ultrasound. Ultrasound of arteries is fast, painless and relatively inexpensive, with no risk and immediate results. No radiation and no IV required. If the test results are ab
normal, consult with an expert on circulation. This does not necessarily have to be a vascular surgeon or cardiologist, as long as it’s a board-certified professional with knowledge of arteries, diabetes and blood flow.

This is similar to things like checking the pressure on your tires, the freon in your air conditioner, the amount of propane in your tank before a cook out, checking your toilet paper supply before a party, and lots of other examples I’m sure we can all think of.

If poor circulation is your problem, it’s often something that has a solution. Don’t ignore it- get it checked.

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