Surgeons not trigger-happy
BARBADOS’ HIGH limb amputation rate for diabetes has nothing to do with any “trigger-happy” surgeons.
Acting head of the University of the West Indies Chronic Disease Research Centre (CDRC), Professor Clive Landis, made this point as the Edmund Cohen Vascular Research Laboratory celebrated its tenth anniversary.
“I have to immediately defend our surgeons,” Landis told reporters after a ceremony on Monday in which tribute was paid to the lab’s outstanding diabetes and HIV/AIDS-related research and to late British businessman and philanthropist Edmund Cohen, who funded construction of the CDRC’s lab.
“Surgeons are anything but trigger-happy. They will only perform the surgery if it is absolutely necessary . . . . The fact is that once the process [of diabetes] has gone beyond a certain stage, then amputation is inevitable.”
Between 2007 and 2011, close to 900 people had amputations, contributing to Barbados being called the unofficial amputation capital of the world.
The issue of amputations surfaced during Monday’s celebrations at the CDRC’s Jemmotts Lane, St Michael complex, when former CDRC head, Professor Henry Fraser, said the research undertaken | by the lab was expected to help Barbados solve some of its major health challenges, including diabetic complications leading to the loss of limbs.
He drew attention to a study by former CDRC head Dr Anselm Hennis on the diabetic foot which linked diabetic patients’ inappropriate footwear to injuries, problematic wounds and, eventually, amputation.
Landis, however, said one finding of the study which might not have attracted enough attention was that a diabetic’s daily self-examination of the foot, and requisite care, could help avoid the need for amputation.
He told reporters Barbados had taken steps which were going to improve the mortality rate involving diabetes and cerebrovascular diseases – creation of the Acute Stroke Unit; opening of the Diabetic Treatment Centre and imminent launching of the Acute Heart Unit.
While pointing out that “behaviour change, particularly at the population level, is one of the harder things to undertake”, he noted that some momentum was being built across Barbados towards healthy lifestyles.
He said the multi-pronged programme involving initiatives, including the Healthy Caribbean Coalition under Sir Trevor
Hassell, was emphasising healthy diets, exercise and salt/sugar reduction – all key to the war against lifestyle diseases such as diabetes.
“Our goal is to provide new information to the patient and to the care provider that allows patients to know how much at risk they are of diabetic foot and then the intervention comes from knowledge because that changes your behaviour.”