Doctor seeks to form group to focus on preventing leg loss

Doctor seeks to form group to focus on preventing leg loss

URBANA — Peripheral artery disease that goes undetected can lead to amputation and even death, but medical providers working together on education and treatment could make a big difference for patients, a local doctor says.

Dr. Michael Neuwirth, a Carle interventional radiologist and head of the Carle Vein Center, is launching a new Champaign-Urbana chapter of Save a Leg, Save a Life, and inviting local doctors, nurses and other health care providers to come to a dinner meeting Tuesday.

Chapter meetings will be sponsored by corporate members, so individual members can attend without cost, Neuwirth said.

The Save a Leg, Save a Life Foundation, based in Jacksonville, Fla. is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to reducing lower extremity amputations and improving the quality of life for people with wounds that have developed as complication of diabetes and peripheral artery disease.

Peripheral artery disease, which usually affects arteries in the legs, sets in when plaque builds up in arteries carrying blood to the head, organs,or limbs. Plaque build-up over time can narrow and harden arteries and limit blood flow.

Neuwirth said he has been working on setting up a local chapter of Save a Leg, Save a Life for a year, and is hoping to draw the interest of a wide variety of practitioners such as podiatrists, geriatricians, endocrinologists, wound care doctors, family and internal medicine doctors, cardiologists, surgeons, emergency physicians, convenience care center staff, advance practice nurses, physician assistants, residents and medical students.

The effort will focus on providers meeting to provide consistent state-of-the-art care that can be used throughout the community and planning public awareness activities, Neuwirth said.

Better education to recognize the signs of peripheral artery disease and getting patients plugged into the right treatment is so important, Neuwirth says.

"We found if people have amputations, they have a much higher rate of dying," he says.

Some other data he's concerned about: Patients who undergo a lower extremity amputation stand more than a 50 percent chance of another amputation of the remaining lower extremity. And the life expectancy of patients who survive the first 30 days after the operation tends to be less than five years, he says.

Risk factors for peripheral artery disease include a family history of the disease, cardiovascular disease, stroke, diabetes, smoking, obesity, high blood pressure and physical inactivity, according to the American Heart Association.

Diabetics and smokers are at especially high risk, but anyone with risk factors — even without symptoms — should be screened for peripheral artery disease, the heart association advises.

The meeting next week will also focus on planning a support group for amputees, Neuwirth said.

"Right now, amputees have no group they can turn to talk about this, and what's going on in their lives and all the issues they have in their lives," he said. "We want to make them feel like they can live a whole life and a fulfilling life."

The Save a Leg, Save a Life meeting next week, for health care providers only, will be at 6-8 p.m. Tuesday at Biaggi's restaurant, 2235 S. Neil St., C.

Seating is limited, so anyone planning to attend is asked to contact Neuwirth by email:

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