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Limb loss preventable in many cases

ALBANY, Ga. -- Three out of five cases in which individuals lose limbs are preventable. Medical officials say that those who are most at risk of an amputation can improve their chances by taking action such as regular inspections of their feet.

The Amputee Coalition is sponsoring a month-long awareness campaign in April that focuses on people of various ages who have lost limbs thriving, which organizers hope will inspire others to take action. More than 1 million people are expected to be exposed to the coalition's "Take a Seat, Check Your Feet" message that notes amputations can be prevented if those at risk are proactive and check their feet regularly.

In Albany, Matt Almeida, a certified pedorthist with Limbcare Prosthetics and Orthotics, is offering free diabetic foot screenings at the company's Palmyra Road location."'Take A Seat, Check Your Feet' is a wonderful and important campaign launched by the Amputee Coalition," Almeida said.

Mayor Dorothy Hubbard, in designating April as Limb Loss Awareness Month in Albany, noted in her proclamation last week that about 2 million Americans are living with a limb loss or difference, while more than 500 Americans lose limbs each day and and 1,000 babies are born each year in the U.S. with a congenital limb difference.

"We recognize and embrace their full and productive lives, and join them in expressing gratitude to caregivers who are a source of support and motivation," Hubbard said. "We especially want to salute combat amputees whose limbs were heroically lost in service to this country." Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital's recreational therapists and officials with Limbcare and Limb Support Inc. were on hand for the proclamation signing.

"We are inspired every day by people who continue to live their lives with independence through the latest technology of our industry," said John Rodman Sr., Limbcare owner.

Officials say that 60 percent of limb loss is preventable, with the main causes being diabetes/vascular disease, trauma and cancer. Among people with diabetes who have one lower extremity amputation, up to 55 percent will require amputation of the second leg within two or three years.

Among people with lower extremity amputation, smoking cigarettes has been associated with a re-amputation risk that is 25 times higher than that of nonsmokers, experts say. In 2009, hospital costs associated limb amputation totaled more than $8.3 billion. Nearly 60 percent of the amputation procedures performed in 2008 were paid for by Medicaid and Medicare, totaling more than $5.2 billion in health care costs.

Nearly half of the individuals who have an amputation due to vascular disease will die within five years. This is higher than the five-year mortality rates for breast cancer, colon cancer and prostate cancer, experts state.