Cutting edge research at the University of Arizona is saving diabetes patients from the thing they fear: Amputation.
Now a brand new discovery is expected to help doctors, and their patients, worldwide.
It’s all about something as simple as the shape of the wound, or ulcer, diabetes patients can develop on their feet and legs.
UA Podiatric Surgeon Dr. David Armstrong is pointing to his computer screen, at the outline of an ulcer.
“This has a lot of these concavities here. Those irregularities seem to make the wound take longer to heal when compared to others,” he says.
He points to another ulcer outline.
This one is round.
“But then when we take a more round wound, and this one is larger, we see this one behaves a lot more regularly. What we found is we have these very simple things a clinician–a nurse, doctor–can eyeball to help predict whether a wound is going to heal regularly or whether it’s going to take a little while longer, and whether we have to bring others things to bear,” he says.
Dr. Armstrong is the head ofSALSA: The Southern Arizona Limb Salvage Alliance.
One of his goals is to save diabetes patients from amputation if he can.
“The longer a wound stays open, the more unpredictable the wound is, the greater the likelihood for infection. therefore, the greater the likelihood for amputation. So if we can predict that early on, we can take steps–and we do take steps at SALSA and other facilities around the world–to ensure the wound doesn’t go in that direction,” Dr. Armstrong says.
The Wound Shape Study Dr. Armstrong’s team has completed is a huge step toward totally avoiding that.
The researchers analyzed almost 4,000 actual wound shapes.
They discovered the simple, inexpensive way doctors can predict healing, and know when they have to take more aggressive steps with more advanced technologies earlier in the treatment.
“Those advanced technologies might be certain types of skins we grow in the lab that we can transplant onto the wound. It might include certain types of growth factors to help blood vessels to grow,” Dr. Armstrong says.
He says simple electronic devices could be programmed to trace the wound, predict healing and even monitor the progress.
“A lot of the things that we once had to deal with, a lot of guesswork, I think we’re getting a little bit better and our batting average is getting a little bit better,” Dr. Armstrong says.
The Wound Shape Study is in the March/April 2009 edition of “Wound Repair and Regeneration.”