Patients who face serious wounds or conditions affecting the limbs have increased hope in preventing amputations thanks to an innovative new clinic designed to address limb preservation. The Limb Preservation and Wound Care Clinic at the Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute of Northwestern Memorial Hospital's Center for Vascular Disease employs the latest limb-saving techniques through a multidisciplinary approach that combines the specialties of vascular surgery, plastic surgery, orthopaedics, endocrinology and rehabilitation medicine to treat conditions and common complications among people living with diabetes and other vascular diseases.
The clinic, the first of its kind in Chicago, strives to lower the rate of amputations by utilizing advances in wound care technology to treat limb-threatening conditions. Non-invasive imaging used to indicate oxygen levels in tissue, cutting-edge tools to assist physicians in selectively removing tissue and highly developed biological dressings that expedite healing are among the measures taken to protect limbs at risk. The clinic is conducting clinical trials with advanced treatment methods and combines complex surgical procedures to improve arterial circulation with the latest minimally invasive technologies to open blood vessels.
“The field of wound care has evolved tremendously in the last 10 years,” adds Heron Rodriguez, MD, vascular surgeon and co-director of the Limb Preservation and Wound Care Clinic. “By combining expertise and taking a specialized approach, we are able to translate those strides into a higher level of patient care by preventing unnecessary amputations.”
While a wide range of factors can lead to serious wounds, approximately 60 percent of cases that result in amputation are among diabetic patients, with the rate of diabetes-related amputations particularly among African-Americans being three times higher than that of Caucasians. Patients who suffer from limb tumors, vascular diseases with poor circulation and frostbite are often at risk as well.
The clinic’s recent launch was the answer to several months of observation, in which doctors monitored the number of operating room admissions due to serious conditions that threatened amputation. With operating rooms frequently dealing with a wide variety of traumatic cases, the necessity for a multi-disciplinary focus on limb salvaging was identified.
“Amputation is a life-altering complication that has a serious impact on both the physical and emotional well-being of patients,” said Robert D. Galiano, MD, plastic surgeon and co-director of the clinic. “There is an intense need for specialized care that pursues all methods available to save limbs, and we have determined that this is best offered by marrying the scientific advances being made in wound care to the excellence of the clinical services at Northwestern Memorial.”
Together, physicians look at all facets of wound care, from biological components to stress prevention. “Our goal is to get the wound closed as soon as possible and prevent new wounds from forming by taking every measure necessary to heal the patient and prevent complications,” adds Dr. Rodriguez.
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