"The days of Australians having to get their limbs amputated
because of diabetes are nearly over," a chronic wound specialist
told this reporter recently.
How can that be when there are still 4,400 diabetes-related
amputations performed in Australia every year?
Because there has been a quiet revolution in vascular surgery in
A technique used by Associate Professor Ramon Varcoe at the
Prince of Wales hospital in Sydney has more than halved the rate of
major amputations in people his team were treating during an
eight-year reporting period.
The results were reported in the
Journal of Endovascular Therapy in 2015.
The technique, known as endovascular revascularisation, involves
inflating collapsed arteries with tiny balloons and then inserting
a stent to help keep the arteries open.
This improves blood flow and gives the limb a much better chance
"If you're told that you need to have a limb amputated, get a
second opinion," Dr Varcoe said in an interview with Circle
magazine earlier this year.
Research has shown that up to 85 per cent of amputations are
preventable if problems are detected and treated early.
The message is clear: If you feel numbness in your limbs, do not
ignore it. Early intervention combined with new surgery techniques
are giving people with diabetes their best chances of avoiding
Dr Varcoe's treatment is used in cases where amputation is the
"Often we can perform surgery as a day procedure and there has
been a massive reduction in major amputations as a result,"
"We looked at the experience here at the Prince of Wales
Hospital over an eight year period and we were amazed to see that
we had reduced the number of major amputations by more than 60 per
"This reflects what we are seeing in everyday practice and what
we are observing on the ward."
Dr Varcoe is confident that diabetes-related amputations will be
eliminated within a generation.
"At the moment, patients need more education, they need to
understand the importance of prevention and they need to know about
the avenues towards seeking care with specialists who have a
particular interest in limb salvage," he said.
"The cornerstone of eliminating diabetes-related amputations is
that prevention is much better than cure. However, once you have a
serious foot infection you need a limb salvage