Magazine article USA TODAY

Microsurgery Procedure Can Save Feet

Magazine article USA TODAY

Microsurgery Procedure Can Save Feet

Article excerpt

Microsurgical procedures on diabetic patients suffering extreme nerve damage and facing amputation in one foot can prevent amputation of both, according to a University of Illinois at Chicago study. Microsurgery is defined as surgery where blood vessels and nerves are connected with an operative microscope and very fine sutures.

Many diabetics develop an associated complication called peripheral neuropathy--nerve damage in the body's extremities. Approximately half of those who have diabetes for 20 years or more will have significant nerve damage. The condition is characterized by numbness, burning, tingling, weakness, and changes in the automatic nerve system of the body such as decreased sweating. People with peripheral neuropathy are uniquely susceptible to foot ulcers, which may lead to amputation. According to the American Diabetes Association, more than 51,000 amputations that are related to diabetes occur annually.

"When a patient with diabetes has a large foot ulcer [extensive soft tissue loss] because of peripheral neuropathy and peripheral vascular disease and one foot is amputated, the same problem will often occur later in the opposite foot and it will need to be amputated as well," indicates Sai Ramasastry of the university's Division of Plastic Surgery. …

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