Amputations – 4,400 reasons to take diabetes seriously

More than 4,400 diabetes-related amputations are performed at Australian hospitals every year, most are preventable, and threaten the long-term viability of Australia’s health system.


Diabetes Australia CEO A/Professor Greg Johnson revealed the worrying statistic at the launch of National Diabetes Week in Melbourne today.


“Australia’s health system is struggling to manage the growing burden of chronic disease, most notably type 2 diabetes, and the fact that there are more than 4,400 diabetes-related amputations in Australia every year as a result of diabetes underlines how critical this issue is,” A/Professor Johnson said.


“To put that in perspective - today around 12 people will undergo a diabetes-related amputation. Tomorrow - 12 more amputations.


“Experts estimate that spending on diabetes-related amputations, and other costs related to diabetic foot disease, costs Australia around $875 million every single year.


“Worryingly, surveys show that the general public underestimates the seriousness of diabetes and most people aren’t aware of the connection between diabetes and amputations.”


“85% of diabetes-amputations are preventable if problems are detected early and managed appropriately,” he said.


Professor Sophia Zoungas, President Elect of the Australian Diabetes Society said, “Fragmentation of the health system means people are slipping through the cracks,” she said.


“We need to re-orient our health system more strongly towards prevention of diabetes-related amputations through more regular checks and risk assessments, and earlier treatment to keep people with diabetes out of hospital.


“Almost all diabetes-related amputations are preceded by sores or ulcers on the foot.


“If these sores are detected and treated early and effectively then they don’t escalate to a situation where amputation is required.


“People should have their feet checked by a health professional twice a year in line with the annual cycle of care requirements for good diabetes management.”


For Melbourne father Jake Williams undergoing several amputations represented the low point of living with type 1 diabetes, a condition he has lived with since first being diagnosed aged 11.


“Living with diabetes is a 24/7 job and I probably wasn’t looking after myself as well as I could,” Mr Williams said.


“When I bought a new pair of thongs they were a bit tight on the toes but I didn’t think much of it.


“A wound developed that wasn’t managed as well as it could have been and the next thing I knew I was in hospital for almost three months having parts of both feet, including both big toes, amputated.


“Your big toe mightn’t seem like much hanging off the edge of your foot but the reality was I had to learn to walk again."


Key facts

  • Every year there are 10,000 hospital admissions in Australia for diabetes-related foot ulcers – many of these admissions end with people having a limb, or part of a limb, amputated.

  • People with diabetes hospitalised for lower limb amputation have longer stays in hospital than other diabetes-related complications. The average length of stay is around 24 days.

  • 85% of diabetes-related amputations are preventable if problems are detected early and managed appropriately.

  • Diabetic foot disease costs Australia around $875 million every single year.

Diabetes Australia is the national body for people affected by all types of diabetes and those at risk.


Are you at risk of diabetes? Take the test at


Want to prevent diabetes? See for State based and international diabetes prevention programs.


10 July 2016.