BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - A Baton Rouge doctor is on a mission to lower the amputation rate for diabetics in Louisiana. Orthopedic surgeon Meredith Warner, M.D. thinks better coordination of care between doctors could save limbs and money, and she's sharing that message with her colleagues.
"I cannot wait until I can go back and dance," Wanda Alleman said while thumbing through old pictures.
The 55-year-old mother and grandmother is too busy to be slowed down by a condition called Charcot foot.
"It is kind of scary to know there's a possibility you could lose your foot," she said.
Charcot is a common complication of diabetes. Nerve damage leaves the patient without feeling in the foot, which makes injury more likely. Over time the foot becomes painfully deformed.
Many doctors lean toward amputation, but Warner thinks that decision is often premature.
"The ultimate goal is to save a limb that can be used," she said.
In 2012, Louisiana had the second highest rate of people who die from diabetes complications. Amputation increases that risk. Warner wants doctors to work together to catch and treat complications sooner.
"If you can control diabetes to begin with, that would be great, but short of that if you can control the symptoms, it would help the state's budget." Warner explained. "The state would save a lot of money, which could then be applied to things like nutritional counseling and weight loss to prevent the diabetes to begin with."
But salvaging the limb is not easy. Alleman's foot had to be surgically reconstructed, and her journey will be a long one.
"You have to make sure they have help at home. Do they have all the things they need like a wheelchair, getting here and there, and that's a huge part of it. You have to coordinate every aspect of their lives," Warner said.
Alleman will have to check in with Dr. Warner for the rest of her life. She sometimes has to wear a special boot or other type of orthopedic shoe. It may be an inconvenience, but she said she's happy to still have the chance to enjoy life without a prosthesis.
"That's what keeps me going. God and thinking about how there's other people worse," she said.
Warner is hosting a conference on this subject for other medical professionals. Early Diagnosis & Treatment of Diabetic Charcot Arthropathy is Saturday, October 29 at Woman's Hospital in Baton Rouge. Sessions run from 8:00 a.m. until 3:45 p.m. Pre-registration for medical professionals is $75. The pre-registration deadline is Oct. 26. On-site registration is $125. CLICK HERE for more information or to register. This conference is not open to the general public.
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