Study Suggests Alternative to Foot Amputations for Some Diabetic Patients

ROSEMONT, IL, April 27, 2011  A recent study published in the March issue of Foot & Ankle International (FAI), the official scientific journal of the American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society (AOFAS) describes a possible amputation alternative for patients with neuropathic ulceration of the first metatarsophalangeal (MTP) or big toe joint. The findings are noteworthy as diabetes is the leading cause for non-accident/injury leg and foot amputations among US adults, with more than 60,000 lower extremity amputations performed annually. In addition, neuropathy (nerve damage or loss of feeling) of the foot occurs in 60-70% of diabetic patients. 
The study's alternative operative treatment to amputation includes debridement and resection arthroplasty with temporary external fixation and VAC dressing. Nicholas Smith, corresponding author of the study says, “While the study includes only a small sample, it does represents the largest group followed in literature. Given that patients are very satisfied with the outcomes and that we achieved an equally positive end point compared to more radical amputation, we are hopeful that this option will be considered for select patients in the future."
The retrospective study, examined 16 patients (the largest group followed in the literature) who underwent resection arthroplasty with external fixation for first MTP ulceration. The patients were studied post-operatively for an eight year period. The purpose of the study was to obtain information on long-term outcomes for all patients who underwent the procedure. Ten out of 16 patients were ulcer free at the conclusion of the study and required no further surgery. The remaining six patients required a secondary procedure which required amputation.
Treatment includes complete debridement of the infected tissue, application of external fixator with pins and wires, and 6 to 8 weeks of antibiotics with use of negative pressure wound therapy (NPWT) for the postoperative treatment of open wounds.
The findings are noteworthy for diabetic patients with foot ulcerations. The authors of the study feel the procedure warrants consideration in the treatment of deep forefoot ulcerations, yet concede that if the ulceration fails to heal, amputation may be the only viable option.
For more information on diabetic foot as well as resources on foot and ankle care, visit the AOFAS website, The site also features a surgeon referral service that makes it easy for patients to find a local orthopaedic surgeon specializing in foot and ankle care.
About the AOFAS
The AOFAS promotes quality, ethical and cost-effective patient care through the education, research and training of orthopaedic surgeons and other health care providers. The Society creates public awareness for the prevention and treatment of foot and ankle disorders, provides leadership, and serves as a resource for government and industry as well as the national and international health care communities.​
About Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Surgeons
Orthopaedic foot and ankle surgeons are medical doctors (MD and DO) who specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of musculoskeletal disorders and injuries of the foot and ankle. Orthopaedic foot and ankle surgeons use medical, physical and rehabilitative methods as well as surgery to treat patients of all ages. Relying on four years of medical school training, five years of post-graduate training and often a fellowship in foot and ankle care, orthopaedic foot and ankle surgeons perform reconstructive procedures, treat sports injuries, and manage and treat trauma of the foot and ankle.


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