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New treatment for crippling diabetic Charcot foot
Date:7/13/2010

MAYWOOD, Ill. -- The alarming increase of morbidly obese diabetics is causing more new cases of a debilitating foot deformity called Charcot foot.

Charcot foot can make walking difficult or impossible, and in severe cases can require amputation.

But a surgical technique that secures foot bones with an external frame has enabled more than 90 percent of patients to walk normally again, according to Loyola University Health System foot and ankle surgeon Dr. Michael Pinzur. Pinzur, one of the nation's leading surgeons who treat Charcot foot, describes the device in the journal Hospital Practice.

The device, called a circular external fixator, is a rigid frame made of stainless steel and aircraft-grade aluminum. It contains three rings that surround the foot and lower calf. The rings have stainless-steel pins that extend to the foot and secure the bones after surgery.

The fixator "has been demonstrated to achieve a high potential for enhanced clinical outcomes with a minimal risk for treatment-associated morbidity," Pinzer wrote. Pinzur treats about 75 Charcot patients per year with external fixators. Most of these patients are diabetics.

Charcot foot can occur in a diabetic who has neuropathy (nerve damage) in the foot that impairs the ability to feel pain. Charot foot typically occurs following a minor injury, such as a sprain or stress fracture. Because the patient doesn't feel the injury, he or she continues to walk, making the injury worse. Bones fracture, joints collapse and the foot becomes deformed. The patient walks on the side of the foot and develops pressure sores. Bones can become infected.

The obesity epidemic is increasing the incidence of Charcot foot in two ways. The excess weight increases the risk of diabetic neuropathy, as well as the risk that patients with diabetic neuropathy will develop Charcot foot.

There has been an alarming increase in morbid obesity among diabetics.
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Contact: Jim Ritter
jritter@lumc.edu
708-216-2445
Loyola University Health System
Source:Eurekalert  

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