CHICAGO (Ivanhoe Newswire/WTVM) - Diabetes is a growing problem in the United States, now affecting close to 30 million people. Diabetics who become increasingly obese are in danger of an ailment that often leads to amputation of their feet. Now, there is a breakthrough treatment that has become a last-chance option.
For years, it was certainly no "walk in the park" for Richard Hamiel Jr. to take a walk in a park or anywhere else. He recalls "I started to stumble, and I crisscrossed my feet, and I couldn't catch up and I fell down."
By 2013, Hamiel's diabetes, combined with obesity, had given him "Charcot foot" — that's nerve damage so severe, he couldn't tell when there was pain in his foot.
Professor of Orthopedic surgery at Loyola University Medical Center in Chicago, Michael Pinzur, MD, says, "Because it doesn't hurt they keep walking on it and patients don't get the feedback that they've got a problem."
Dr. Pinzur offered Hamiel a stark choice — amputate his foot, or roll the dice to try to save it.
Dr. Pinzur used a device called the "Ilizarov circular external fixator". It looks like a halo neck brace. Doctors attach the device to the ends of the bones during surgery and during daily adjustments, tension pulls the bone slightly, allowing new bone to gradually grow in.
Saving a foot means possibly saving a life, because obese amputees are often relegated to life in a wheelchair.
Patients wear the Ilizarov device for 10 to 12 weeks, before eventually moving on to diabetic shoes. Dr. Pinzur is believed to have successfully performed this procedure on more people than anyone else in the world- more than 400 diabetics.