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UA research may lead to fewer limb amputations

A University of Arizona study on wound shapes could help people with chronic wounds avoid limb amputations.

Round wounds have a better chance of healing – and heal more quickly – than wounds with a lot of concavities or squiggles, said Dr. David G. Armstrong, UA professor of surgery and director of the Southern Arizona Limb Salvage Alliance (SALSA) at the UA College of Medicine.

The study showed larger round wounds healed better and more quickly than smaller wounds with irregular shapes, he said.

“Chronic wounds are an epidemic in the developing world, and especially in patients with diabetes. These wounds become infected,” Armstrong said.

Limbs with infected wounds that won’t heal may require removal.

“An amputation is performed every 30 seconds on people with diabetes,” he said. “Probably 9 of 10 of them are preventable. This will keep a few more legs on a few more bodies.”

The study by researchers at SALSA and Advanced BioHealing Inc., in La Jolla, Calif., looked at venous leg ulcers and how healing related to the shape of the chronic wounds.

Using the results from the study, doctors will be able to predict the likelihood that a chronic wound will heal, and how long it should take, Armstrong said.

“We’re trying to create a certain number of things we can do rapidly that would allow us to create a growth chart for wound healing, just like we have a growth chart in a pediatrician’s office,” he said.

“The bottom line is this is another tool to have in the tool chest. We’re always looking for additional tricks to assist us in being able to predict wounds that are going to heal and wounds that are going to be challenging.”

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