LA Daily News: Amputation Prevention Center Open for Business

Valley Presbyterian opens wound center

HEALTH: Hospital treats diabetics’ feet to prevent amputations

For Dr. George Andros, the journey of a thousand miles begins with saving one foot.

“When one person loses a foot, the whole family loses a foot,” said Andros, a vascular surgeon at Valley Presbyterian Hospital in Van Nuys.

For 20 years, Andros worked to gain support for a one-stop center where those with diabetes-related wounds could come to be examined and treated by podiatrists and vascular surgeons.

His vision came true earlier this year, and tonight, Valley Presbyterian Hospital will officially open its amputation prevention center.

The 4,000-square-foot center is one of a handful in the nation – and hospital officials say the only one in Southern California – that uses a team-based approach to treat the ulcerated wounds associated with diabetes.

Patients will be treated with devices including hydroscalpels, 3-D wound cameras, skin oxygen sensors, and thermal imaging in a coordinated effort to help improve circulation so the wound can heal.

“I’ve been trying to get a center like this built for the last 20 years because I recognized this is a growing problem in a growing population,” said Andros, who frequently lectures about diabetes-related conditions.

Nearly 230 diabetes-related amputations are performed in the U.S. every 24 hours, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Diabetes-related amputations “consume massive amounts of health care dollars on the one hand,

and on the other hand, despite all the money, devastates families and people,” Andros said.

Although diabetes has reached epidemic proportions, Andros said he had to struggle to win support for the center. Saving the feet of the older diabetics just doesn’t have the public-relations “buzz or sizzle” of other illnesses, Andros said.

And yet when all is considered, diabetes-related amputations can be costly.

“One-third of all Medicare dollars goes for the treatment of diabetes,” said Andros, the medical director of the amputation prevention center. “The No. 1 cause of a (diabetic) patient being admitted to the hospital is a problem with the foot.”

Bill Gifford of North Hollywood, who’s been fighting diabetes for 40 of his 59 years, relies on his mobility in his job as a security guard at the Los Angeles Equestrian Center.

When his insurance company referred him to a podiatrist who wanted to amputate his ulcerated big toe, Gifford sought treatment at Valley Presbyterian instead.

“A parade of specialists came in and it was marvelous,” said Gifford. “One after the other came and asked pertinent questions to formulate a full (treatment) strategy, not just for the toe.”

Tonight’s grand opening will also be held to honor actor Edward James Olmos for his advocacy for diabetes education and prevention.

While the opening is a victory for Andros and other medical staff, the real win is for diabetics whose toes, feet, and legs will be saved.

“I get a good feeling when a foot is saved,” Andros said. “It means a whole family is saved.”

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