The fear of coronavirus and a lack of on-site regular healthcare services is the likely cause of a greater number of major amputations in elderly people during the height of the pandemic, broadcaster NOS has found.
More major amputations, such as the removal of a leg, have been taking place in 17 hospitals, particularly in Noord-Brabant and Limburg where the virus initially hit hardest.
The patients were elderly people suffering from arteriosclerosis whose foot lesions where not treated in time. This was either because they were afraid of catching Covid-19 or because they were actively discouraged from seeing a doctor because medical services had been overwhelmed.
The only hospital which kept a record of the increase was the Amphia hospital in Breda. Between March and the end of April 45% of the people who ended up in hospital with arteriosclerosis lost a large part of their leg, compared to 15% in preceding years.
‘They had lesions or gangrene, didn’t want to go to their family doctor for fear of catching the virus and came to the hospital too late,’ said vascular surgeon Lijckle van der Laan, whose study on the subject will appear in medical journal Annals of Vascular Surgery. ‘But you really have to see these patients to be able to judge how serious the problem is.’
Marian Kaljouw, chairwoman of the Dutch healthcare authority NZA, said in a comment that although many problems resolved themselves without a visit to the family doctor, the groups which experienced serious health damage must be seen.
“If they had been seen by a doctor in March the consequences would have been much less severe,’ she said.
Some 800,000 people with a health problem did not go to their family doctor at the height of the crisis. Research has shown that at least 40% of regular healthcare was put on hold in March alone, including chemotherapy treatment and transplants.