PORTSMOUTH is at the heart of pioneering a treatment that could reduce the number of diabetes-related foot amputations.
Solent NHS Trust, which provides mental health and community health services such as footcare in the south-east Hampshire area, has been testing a new foot cast to heal damaged limbs.
Foot ulcers are common for diabetics as they often suffer from reduced sensation on the skin and are more prone to cuts becoming infected Over time this can lead to an amputation.
Portsmouth has an amputation rate of 4.3 per 1,000 people, compared to the national average of 2.6, while Fareham and Gosport has the highest rate at 5.1.
This was the case for William Hutchinson, 57, from Havant, a Type 2 diabetic who was on the verge of having a toe on his left foot amputated.
He said: ‘I have very little feeling in my feet, so any cut or nick I get on my feet can quickly turn into an ulcer.
‘I attended clinics for months due to an ulcer which I had on my big toe. I was wearing an air cast walker to try and heal the ulcer, which I’d had for 13 months – but this caused an ulcer to develop on my other foot because I was unbalanced.
‘I had the second ulcer for four months.’
Mr Hutchinson was referred to Solent specialist podiatry team in St James’ Hospital, Locksway Road, Milton, and suggested he tried the TCC-EZ – total contact casting system.
It is considered as a gold standard of care, has been produced by Dermasciences Europe, and is a one-piece, roll-on, woven cast that can be applied in 10 minutes by the podiatrist.
It works by minimising pressure and friction, as the TCC-EZ redistributes the weight away from the wounds, meaning it can heal even while the patient is walking.
Emily Sambrook, podiatrist advanced practitioner, said: ‘I’m always a little sceptical about new technologies – but the TCC-EZ is the best new technology I’ve experienced.
‘Patients who have been seen for many months with little improvement are now healing, in some cases, within eight weeks, which is absolutely fantastic and significantly reduces the chance of amputation.
‘Our patients often suffer from depression as they can’t do what they normally do and can’t see an end goal.
‘They will often ask how long the healing process will take. Using a traditional method, it’s very difficult to allocate a time frame – but now I can provide an end point based on evidence.
‘The patients we’ve been dealing with have been amazed how quickly they are healing – and that has had a dramatic effect on their quality of life.’
And it’s something Mr Hutchinson can vouch for as in 12 weeks he went from having ulcers on both feet to being almost fully healed.
He added: ‘I’m looking forward to getting out walking again – which is my big love.
‘I’m pretty close to getting to that point now, which is just amazing.
‘I’ve now got the correct footwear, which has been specially made, so I can get back to being outdoors and fingers crossed everything should be okay now.’