Avoiding amputation with PET scans

Avoiding amputation with PET scans

SALT LAKE CITY (Ivanhoe Newswire/WTVM) -- After decades of excruciating pain and nearly 20 surgeries, Emily Sunderland didn't argue when a surgeon told her amputation was all that was left. But another surgeon said 'wait just a minute.'

"At that point, I was just so ready. I was depressed. I mean, I couldn't take care of myself, I couldn't dress myself. I mean, life stunk," Sunderland says.

That's because for decades her life was marred by 18 surgeries and mind-boggling amounts of pain medication. The white areas on her PET scan show infection in her hip and around a prosthetic leg bone. But the PET scan also held good news. It showed orthopedic surgeon Anna Kulidjian, MD, MSc, FRCSC, UC San Diego Health, that Emily's leg could be saved.

Dr. Kulidjian says, "You get that pet scan for the purpose of finding how far the infection has gone. So your resection plan is determined before surgery."

Not many doctors use PET scans to get precise information in cases like this. But for Emily, the scan showed all the infection was removed. After two surgeries they removed the infection, reconstructed the pelvis, and put in a prosthetic femur.

"I think the lesson is to, first of all, probably not give up because there's somewhere, somebody that may have an opinion that may help you in that difficult situation," Dr. Kulidjian says.

And today Sunderland has no limp, no pain and her own leg.

"Not only did she save my leg, this is where it gets emotional … I mean, feel like she saved my life," Emily says.

Both Dr. Kulidjian and Emily say her case is a great example of doing research, asking questions, and finding a doctor with whom you can create a great working partnership.

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