Diabetics suffering from Charcot foot have new treatment

Wed, 21 Jul 2010
Charcot foot, a debilitating foot deformity suffered by morbidly obese diabetics, is becoming increasingly common due to the rising rates of obesity around the world. Charcot foot is so serious that it makes walking extremely difficult and can even require amputation in severe cases.

Unfortunately, traditional surgical techniques do not work with obese Charcot patients, as their bones are already weakened by their weight. However, a new surgical technique has now been developed that secures the bones in the foot using an external frame, and has meant that more than 90 per cent of patients are able to walk normally again.

The device, developed by foot and ankle surgeon Michael Pinzur, is circular external fixator, which is a rigid frame made of stainless steel and high-grade aluminium that contains three rings that surround the foot and lower calf. The rings use pins that extend to the foot and secure the bones after surgery .

Charcot foot can occur in people with diabetes who have nerve damage in the foot that impairs the ability to feel pain, and normally comes about after an apparently minor injury. With the patient not aware of the injury, they continue to walk as normal, which exacerbates the injury. Obesity can increase the risk of diabetic neuropathy, and also the risk that patients with diabetic neuropathy will develop Charcot foot.

Pinzur, who treats about 75 Charcot patients each year with external fixators, most of them diabetics, says the treatment "has been demonstrated to achieve a high potential for enhanced clinical outcomes with a minimal risk for treatment-associated morbidity."
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