Dual imaging may help individuals with type 1 diabetes or type 2 diabetes avoid amputation

Having a limb amputated is a fear of many individuals with type 1 diabetes or type 2 diabetes. People who have these conditions often require this type of procedure if they develop foot infections that are difficult or impossible to heal.

Nerve damage caused by type 1 diabetes or type 2 diabetes can result in a loss of feeling in the feet, which makes it difficult for individuals to detect foot injuries, such as cuts or blisters, the American Diabetes Association (ADA) explains. Poor blood circulation further compounds this issue by reducing one's ability to fight off foot infections.

However, a recent study presented at the Society of Nuclear Medicine's 58th Annual Meeting showed that a combination of two types of imaging, called single photon emission computed tomography and computed tomography (SPECT/CT), may detect tissue or bone infections in the foot early and allow patients to receive less invasive treatments, as opposed to amputation.

"We want to avoid amputation whenever possible, because it has been shown to be detrimental to patients in terms of both quality of life and survival," said lead researcher Sherif Heiba, MD.

The investigators took a total of 227 SPECT/CT scans from a group of 191 participants who were suspected of having mid- or hind-foot infections.

The study's results indicated that the dual-imaging technique detected 84 cases of infected bone - clinically known as osteomyelitis - and 93 infections of soft tissue within the foot. Additionally, a total of 25 subjects were found to have a combination of both these conditions and 25 other pathologies were also discovered.

After diagnosis, a total of 72 percent of the participants were treated with conservative therapy and 24 percent required only minor surgical procedures, the findings showed.

Individuals with type 1 diabetes or type 2 diabetes may want to address the issue of diabetic nerve damage or foot infection with their physicians at their next visit. Since diabetics often have numerous other health concerns, the ADA recommends that they make a list of topics to discuss with their healthcare providers. This may help prevent uncertainty in diabetes management.