Charcot foot, a debilitating foot deformity linked with diabetes that can lead to amputation in severe cases, is increasing in the United States, according to data recently published in the Journal of Diabetes and its Complications. However, a new form of surgery using an external fixation device could enable patients to walk normally again.
Michael Pinzur, MD, FAAOS, a professor in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery and Rehabilitation at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine, developed an alternative technique using an Ilizarov circular external fixator, according to a press release.
The device contains three rings that surround the foot and lower calf. The rings have stainless-steel pins and aircraft-grade aluminum that extend to the foot, securing its bones after surgery.
Following surgery, the device remains on the patient for 10 weeks to 12 weeks. During that time, patients are often able to walk or bear weight. When the device is removed, the patient wears a walking cast for 4 weeks to 6 weeks, eventually progressing to a removable boot or diabetic shoes.
In the United States, 29.1 million people have diabetes, according to the CDC. The growing number of diabetics, combined with the obesity epidemic, is increasing the incidence of Charcot foot, the press release stated. Researchers believe the new method of surgery could reduce this incidence.
Pinzur has performed more than 560 Charcot foot operations with the external fixation device, enabling 91% of patients to return to normal gait.