Aggressive Therapy Saves Woman’s Leg

March 9, 2009

Two weeks after Geraldine Dale hurt her foot in a fall, she noticed a small black and blue mark that started spreading. “I thought it was a bruise,” she said. “But then, I noticed a foul odor. I couldn’t believe it when the doctor I saw said they would have to amputate up to the knee!” Geraldine was horrified. When she talked with William Beasley, DPM, at the Wound Healing Center, however, he told her he thought they could save her leg, but that it would take aggressive treatment. “I told him to do whatever he had to. I wanted to keep my leg.”

Treatment Included Restoring Blood Flow, Plus VAC and Antibiotic Therapy

As Dr. Beasley explained, “Geraldine had a raging infection in her foot that included gangrenous changes. It developed in the injury as a result of diabetes that was not well controlled. I told her that she had poor circulation and blocked arteries. The tissue was dying and infection was building up in the bone. We knew we couldn’t save the leg until we increased blood flow to the injured area.” So, Dr. Beasley arranged for her
to have revascularization surgery to increase the blood supply. Three toes and a small part of her foot were amputated.

“Following her surgery,” said Dr. Beasley, “we treated the wound with VAC therapy three times a week. The
therapy creates suction that pulls fluid off and helps healthy tissues grow over the wound. We couldn’t use a skin graft over the bone to close the wound because we were concerned about infection.”

Geraldine also went on an antibiotic regimen. “I went to the Joslin Center every day for eight weeks for an IV
antibiotic,” Geraldine said. “I’m getting my diabetes care there, too. My diabetes is now under control.  And, with my specially fitted shoe, I can walk and shop and go on family outings. I do a lot better with two legs!”

According to Dr. Beasley, “The theory is that you should save as much of the limb as you can for better function. The body has to work hard to adjust to the loss of a limb. The more that is lost, the harder the body has to work. It becomes a vicious cycle. It’s not exaggerating to say, ‘Save a limb, save a life.’”