A recent study published in the March issue of Foot & Ankle International (FAI), the official scientific journal of the American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society (AOFAS) describes a possible amputation alternative for patients with neuropathic ulceration of the first metatarsophalangeal (MTP) or big toe joint. The findings are noteworthy as diabetes is the leading cause for non-accident/injury leg and foot amputations among US adults, with more than 60,000 lower extremity amputations performed annually. In addition, neuropathy (nerve damage or loss of feeling) of the foot occurs in 60-70% of diabetic patients.
The study's alternative operative treatment to amputation includes debridement and resection arthroplasty with temporary external fixation and VAC dressing. Nicholas Smith, corresponding author of the study says, "While the study includes only a small sample, it does represents the largest group followed in literature. Given that patients are very satisfied with the outcomes and that we achieved an equally positive end point compared to more radical amputation, we are hopeful that this option will be considered for select patients in the future."
The retrospective study examined 16 patients (the largest group followed in the literature) who underwent resection arthroplasty with external fixation for first MTP ulceration. The patients were studied post-operatively for an eight year period. The purpose of the study was to obtain information on long-term outcomes for all patients who underwent the procedure. Ten out of 16 patients were ulcer free at the conclusion of the study and required no further surgery. The remaining six patients required a secondary procedure which required amputation.
Treatment includes complete debridement of the infected tissue, application of external fixator with pins and wires, and 6 to 8 weeks of antibiotics with use of negative pressure wound therapy (NPWT) for the postoperative treatment of open wounds
The findings are noteworthy for diabetic patients with foot ulcerations. The authors of the study feel the procedure warrants consideration in the treatment of deep forefoot ulcerations, yet concede that if the ulceration fails to heal, amputation may be the only viable option.