Proven Strategies To Prevent Lower Extremity Amputation

Monica H. Schweinberger, DPM

   Patients with significant deformity and adequate vascular status may benefit from surgical correction to reduce pressure and avoid re-ulceration.10 Surgery ideally happens after the wound has healed but can sometimes occur to promote healing in situations in which local wound care has not been completely effective. For distal and dorsal toe ulcers in relatively flexible hammertoe deformity, percutaneous tenotomy (with a local anesthetic for the patient) works well to correct deformity.11 One can often perform the procedure safely and achieve good results, even in elderly patients with multiple comorbidities. Other standard or minimal incision procedures include bunionectomy, proximal interphalangeal joint arthroplasty or fusion, metatarsal osteotomy, midfoot or rearfoot fusion, and even Charcot reconstruction on a case-by-case basis.12

   One must critically evaluate the patient’s health status and ability to adhere with postoperative instructions in order to select the best procedure for the patient. Researchers have reported that tendo-Achilles lengthening and gastrocnemius recession reduce pressure on the ball of the foot and aid with ulcer healing and prevention.13 When performing a tendo-Achilles lengthening, take care to avoid over-lengthening in order to prevent plantar heel ulceration in the neuropathic foot.13-14

In Conclusion

Routine follow-up of patients with a history of ulceration has been critical in maintaining long-term healing.15 Some may develop calluses in the area of their previous ulcer that need periodic debridement to avoid re-ulceration, even with the use of appropriate footwear. Periodic replacement of therapeutic shoe gear, orthotics and bracing is important in order to maintain appropriate support and protection of the patient’s feet. Researchers have shown that patient adherence to wearing prescribed footwear at home is poor.16 We repeatedly give written as well as verbal foot care instructions to patients through our clinics in an attempt to improve adherence. Pamphlets are also available in the waiting rooms at our outside clinics for patient education.

   I will admit that wound care is extremely labor intensive with frequent, long visits required to provide appropriate care. Even with the significant emphasis on wound management at our facility, we are not always successful in healing wounds or maintaining healing without amputation. There is no magic involved in healing diabetic foot ulcers but most ulcers will respond to a standard protocol of basic wound care strategies in combination with comprehensive, multidisciplinary patient management.4,17-18

   Dr. Schweinberger completed a limb preservation fellowship at Madigan Army Medical Center in Tacoma, Wash. She currently works in the podiatry department at the VA Medical Center in Cheyenne, Wyo.

Add new comment