A new dressing technique could help reduce the number of diabetic amputations.

For those individuals living with diabetes, foot ulcers continue to be a massive obstacle in their ongoing treatment. According to a 2009 report from the American Diabetes Association, diabetics have a 25-percent lifetime risk of developing these painful ulcers. And while a proper wound care regimen can often be enough to address ulcers, nearly 6 percent of all cases end in amputations, according to a 2012 report from the DEcIDE Network. But that might not always be the case. Thanks to an innovative new technique, that rate of amputation could decrease noticeably in the near future. 

Saving limbs

This exciting development is actually a new kind of dressing made from human amniotic membrane, a unique form of tissue found in placentas. The dressing was designed by several doctors and researchers from the U.K.’s own King’s College London, which published the results of a multi-year study in the British Medical Bulletin journal.

Over the last decade or so, scientists across the globe have found increasing evidence that amniotic membrane can drastically improve wound healing rates. A 2013 study in the International Wound Journal noted that this membrane is especially effective in tackling chronic wounds, including foot ulcers, burns and trauma wounds. Not only that, but a 2013 report from Today’s Wound Clinic explained the use of the membrane greatly reduces overall healing times.

The membrane itself is a thin piece of mesh that emerges after a baby has been born. The researchers simply stripped away the stem cells, leaving only a scaffold that’s rich with the protein collagen. As you may be aware, collagen is a powerful wound fighting agent, as it’s both versatile and can help mitigate infection.

Gaining prominence

Despite its growth in recent years, Live Science explained that similar membrane techniques have existed in some basic form since the dawn of the 20th century. In 1910, Dr. J.W. Davis used a membrane as a temporary skin graft, finding it to be quite effective. However, Dr. Dusko Ilic, a lead author on the U.K. study, told Live Science that the technology is only now used by a handful of companies in the U.S. and Europe.

That’s despite the fact that other studies have found similar results of the King’s College team. In 2014, researchers from the Society for Biomaterials examined the effectiveness of a similar membrane product from a Georgia-based company. Working with ulcers from 2 to 20 centimeters in diameter, the SFB found that 62 percent of wounds closed within the first month.

Of course, there are some issues with the use of these membranes. For one, they must be custom fitted to every patient, as there’s always concerns of tissue rejection. Plus, these dressings can be expensive, costing anywhere from $400 to $4,000. However, Ilic is confident that these membranes will someday become an integral part of the wound care industry.

“Just like with every new medicine, it has to pass time, and then people embrace it,” he said. “Medical staff has to get it embedded in their heads. This exists. This is really working.”

When it comes to combating amputation, Advanced Tissue can provide all of your dressing and ointment needs.