New hospital unit helps diabetic, artery disease patients avoid amputation
Temple University Hospital is home to a new center that specializes in saving legs from being amputated.
Under the direction of Temple’s chief of vascular surgery, Dr. Eric Choi, the Limb Salvage Center assists diabetic and peripheral artery disease (PAD) patients facing amputation.
The center offers 12 different medical disciplines in one place, including podiatry, endocrinologists, cardiology, physical therapy, interventional radiology, orthotics and vascular surgery.
“We have a center now where patients can come in and we can converge on them instead of them going to see one specialist and another specialist. We are all on call to see the patients as needed. So it becomes a multidisciplinary type of approach and is much more patient-centered,” said Choi.
After suffering complications related to PAD, Philadelphia resident Anna Mosley was referred to the Limb Salvage Center for treatment of swelling problems and leg wounds that were having difficulty healing. Mosley developed leg wounds after she suffered a heart attack and was placed in a rehab center. Mosley will not have to undergo any surgery on her legs.
“We were able to find out that she did have some circulation problems. As long as we were aggressive, and with the help of her nephew who assists her everyday, we were able to get it mostly healed up,” Choi says in regard to her wounds.
“Basically we tried to tailor-make the therapy for her because everybody who has PAD or circulation problems needs surgery.”
While Mosley’s legs are getting better, she has difficulty walking.
“I’m having a little difficulty getting around,” said Mosley.
When Choi first joined Temple’s staff a year ago, he encountered patients younger than 40 who needed to have a leg amputated due to diabetic complications. Those experiences spurred him to launch a center that would cater to the needs to the community and make a difference.
Eighty percent of the patients served by the center are diabetic — a condition that can lead to leg amputation. Choi noted that many of the center’s patients have artery disease, which reduces blood flow to the feet.
According to the American Diabetes Association, more than 60 percent of non-traumatic lower-limb amputations occur in people with diabetes.
Choi says a simple cut on the leg or foot of a diabetic patient could evolve into a larger sore if it’s not treated. Left unchecked, the leg could become infected with gangrene, which leads to amputations.
With that in mind, Choi says wounds of diabetics must be treated right away.
“If it’s properly treated, you don’t have to worry about amputations,” Choi stressed.
“In fact, most amputations are avoidable.”
For years, Choi has been studying techniques to improve blood flow to prevent the need for amputation. Now he is preparing to enroll Temple patients who are at high risk for a leg amputation into a three-year clinical trial that involves the use of angiogenesis, a technique which entails improving blood flow to the leg using therapies designed to grow new blood vessels.
Contact Tribune staff writer Ayana Jones at (215) 893-5747 or AJones@phillytrib.com.