An estimated 185,000 people in the United States have at least one arm or leg amputated each year, according to the Amputee Coalition, and about 2 million people in the nation are living with limb loss. Shockingly, nearly half of all patients who have a major amputation have not undergone a simple diagnostic test, known as an “arteriogram,” to see if limb preservation is possible.
Certain injuries and medical conditions can cause tissue damage significant enough to warrant amputations. Untreated peripheral arterial disease can lead to limb amputation, for example. Amputation is not necessary in many cases, though, and limb-preservation techniques can help resolve the disease or injury and save the limb.
Limb preservation is a branch of medicine that focuses on the prevention and treatment of limb-threatening conditions. It is a multidisciplinary approach, which means it uses several different medical specialties, such as:
- Interventional radiology – A range of techniques that uses imaging to provide therapy to precise locations in the body
- Vascular surgery – Surgical procedures to restore proper blood flow through blood vessels
- Interventional cardiology – Focuses on the management of heart disease
- Podiatry – The treatment of foot disorders
- Wound care physicians – Doctors with special expertise in the care of wounds
- Vascular medicine – Medical specialty that focuses on the treatment of blood vessel problems
- Primary care – The patient’s main source for medical care
The St. Louis Vein and Endovascular medical professionals in each of these specialties work together in a coordinated effort to prevent the removal of a limb. This multidisciplinary approach to limb preservation helps doctors assess a patient’s condition quickly, improve healing and enhance the development of new blood vessels in the affected limb. Together, the St. Louis Vein and Endovascular team works to optimize healing by improving blood flow, treating wound infections, keeping wounds clean of damaged tissue, and providing wound care and nutritional guidance.
The multidisciplinary approach leads to enhanced healing, limb preservation and improved patient satisfaction. Communication between the different specialties is key to limb preservation.
Leg wounds that do not heal may indicate a serious problem. In fact, leg wounds are often the reason people go to their doctors. Left untreated, leg wounds can lead to infection, gangrene and limb loss. This is particularly true for people with diabetes.
Most amputations of the leg are because of a vein ulcer that has deteriorated to gangrene, which is death of the tissue. The minority of amputations are the result of artery problems. About 10 to 15 percent of the cases have problems with both arteries and veins; these tend to be the most difficult to treat.
Leg Wound Symptoms
- Tiredness, heaviness or cramping in the leg muscles
- Feet or toes that have a pale, blue or discolored appearance
- Foot or leg pain that interferes with sleep
- Wounds on legs, feet or toes that heal slowly
- Yellow, thick toenails that are not growing
Certain symptoms can indicate that a leg wound could lead to infection or limb loss. These symptoms include:
Treatment for leg wounds may include limb-preservation techniques that reduce the necessity of amputation. Please visit Dr. Raffi Krikorian and the St. Louis Vein and Endovascular staff today in order to get the treatment you deserve.