Keep Your Feet Attached

Diabetics with damaged feet have amputation alternatives

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Diabetes is a disease that can lead to all sorts of other health problems. In severe cases, patients may require amputation of a limb. But now, patients have another option besides amputation if their foot gets badly infected.

Researchers found that they don't always have to amputate the infected feet of diabetic patients. Instead, they can remove only the infected part and rebuild the part they removed - such as the big toe.

"Diabetics have amputation options."

Diabetes is the main cause for amputations of legs and feet that did not get hurt in an accident. Every year, over 60,000 diabetics in the United States have a leg or foot removed each year. 

The new treatment option involves debridement (removal of damaged tissue), resection arthroplasty (rebuilding of the toe in this case), external fixation (a sort of brace outside the body that keeps bones in place), and VAC dressing (a sort of bandaging that uses air to pull a wound together). This new option may allow many diabetic patients to keep their feet.

Nicholas Smith, one of the study's authors, admits that the study had only a small sample. However, he notes that is the largest group to be followed so far.

The patients involved in the study were happy with their results, says Smith. For this reason, he hopes that this alternative to amputation can be used on certain patients in the future.

The Study

  • Smith and colleagues looked at 16 patients who went through resection arthroplasty with external fixation for ulceration of the big toe - or surgery to remove and rebuild the damaged part of the big toe
  • The researchers studied the patients for eight years after the operation
  • 10 patients had no ulcers at the end of the study and did not need anymore surgery
  • 6 patients needed another surgery, leading to amputation 
Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
May 9, 2011
Last Updated:
May 23, 2011