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Save a leg to save a life

Photo: Save a leg to save a life
Diabetics with amputations are at least 50% more likely to die within five years than diabetics with no amputations, research has shown. That’s why diabetic foot expert, Professor David Armstrong, says it is critical for diabetics to check their feet daily.

Speaking at the inaugural Wounds Australia National Conference in Melbourne last week, Professor Armstrong who is Director of the Southern Arizona Limb Salvage Alliance (SALSA) and Professor of surgery at the University of Arizona, says that every three hours, one Australian loses a limb as a direct result of diabetes foot disease.

“Diabetes is the leading cause of amputations. And with 1.5 million people in Australia diagnosed as having diabetes, we must make prevention pay,” he said. “In the USA, the cost of diabetic foot complications is at its highest, even exceeding the five most-costly cancers – breast, colorectal, lung, prostate and leukemia.
As Professor Armstrong explains, one of the key complications of diabetes is the loss of protective sensation in the foot. This, coupled with a foot deformity, increases the level of mechanical pressure which can lead to tissue damage and ulceration. By checking your feet daily, you are able to off-load the pressure on the foot as soon as you spot any skin damage. An ulcer, once developed, can become chronic if you continue to put pressure on it.

“There are special insoles, shoes that can be moulded to the foot and total contact casts that can off-load pressure to allow healing,” he said. Additionally, his team has been working on developing innovative preventative tools such as a foot thermometer that could even come in the form of a beautiful bath mat.

“We have now three separate federally-sponsored clinical trials that suggest that giving people simple thermometers to measure skin temperature at the feet is very effective at preventing ulcers. It is very much like a glucose meter for the foot, as a wound will heat up before it breaks down.”

His team is also evaluating microscopic sensors that can be injected into the foot to identify problems with blood flow. "Marrying injectables with wearables and your mobile phone, we believe, is potentially revolutionary," said Professor Armstrong.

For more information on Diabetic foot health

For more information on Wounds Australia National Conference

Professor David Armstrong (Director, Southern Arizona Limb Salvage Alliance, USA)
Prof David Armstrong is Professor of Surgery (with Tenure) at The University of Arizona and Deputy Director of the Arizona Center for Accelerated Biomedical Innovation (ACABI). Dr Armstrong holds a Masters of Science in Tissue Repair and Wound Healing from the University of Wales College of Medicine and a PhD from the University of Manchester College of Medicine, where he was appointed Visiting Professor of Medicine. He also co-founded the Southern Arizona Limb Salvage Alliance (SALSA). Prof Armstrong has produced more than 410 peer-reviewed research papers in dozens of scholarly medical journals as well as over 60 book chapters. He is co-Editor of the American Diabetes Association’s (ADA) Clinical Care of the Diabetic Foot, now entering its third edition.


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