The University of Chicago Medicine is the home of one of the most experienced and innovative limb salvage programs in the country. Our multidisciplinary team works closely together to quickly diagnose conditions and deliver limb salvage treatments before your foot and/or leg suffers further damage. We are committed to delivering unparalleled care to each patient with the non-surgical, minimally invasive and traditional surgical options that best meet your needs and healthcare goals.
What is limb salvage?
Limb salvage is a multidisciplinary program designed to identify diseased limbs (legs and feet) and repair and/or restore blood supply, tissues or muscles with the goal to preserve the mobility and functionality of the limb and minimize amputation.
What are the risks and causes associated with limb salvage?
UChicago Medicine limb salvage experts specialize in lower extremity (feet and leg) care, and there are several conditions that can increase your risk of limb disease, such as:
- Atherosclerosis – a build up of cholesterol plaque in the walls of arteries that can limit or blockage blood flow thought the limb
- Peripheral artery disease (PAD) – (also known as peripheral vascular disease) occurs when arteries in the lower limbs harden and narrow, reducing blood flow to the rest of the leg and/or foot
- Diabetic foot disease – when chronic nerve damage and circulation problems in the legs/feet impact functionality of your limbs and increase the risk of ulcers and other serious wounds
- Aneurysm in the legs – a weakening and/or bulge in the arterial wall, making it easier for blood clots to form and block blood flow, which can eventually harm tissues in the leg
- Wounds and/or infections – if sores, cuts and other wounds to the feet and/or legs are not properly treated, infections can develop, and over time, can cause tissue decay or gangrene
Suffering any one of these conditions can mean that you have severely limited blood flow to your lower limbs, and ignoring these conditions can led to serious complications. Finding the right limb salvage team is important when treating your leg/feet disease before the damage is too extensive to repair.
Symptoms of Lower Limb Disease
Identifying disease in your legs and feet as early as possible is crucial for treating your condition quickly to salvage your limb(s). Conditions that lead to limb loss can affect all ages and genders, so it is important to understand each patient may experience a different set of symptoms. Reviewing this list of common symptoms can help you identify your risk of limb disease:
- Pain when walking
- Foot pain at rest (rest pain)
- Sores on your legs and feet that are slow to heal
- Sores on your legs and feet that are not healing
- Leg cramps during exercise (claudication)
- Numbness of the feet pain
- Temperature changes in the feet/legs
- Leg or foot coloration changes
- Slower growth in toenails
If you are experiencing one or more of these symptoms, please reach out to your doctor to evaluate your condition. If you are not proactive about your health, untreated limb disease can progress to gangrene and potential amputation.
Treatment Options for Limb Salvage
Our multidisciplinary team of vascular surgeons, podiatrist, endocrinologists and plastic surgeons collaborate together to recommend the right treatment strategy for your individual condition(s).
Lifestyle Modifications and Monitoring
Managing your health is an important first step in successful treatment. There are lifestyle changes that can help improve overall health, including maintaining a healthy weight, making exercise a regular part of the day, joining a smoking cessation group and making sure you are on appropriate medications for any underlying medical conditions.
We also encourage patients to monitor feet and legs daily for any changes, such as sores, injuries or temperature fluctuations. Contact your physicians as soon as you notice any changes to your condition so that you can be assessed and treated. This can help prevent amputations and limb loss.
Non-Surgical and Surgical Treatment Options:
- Balloon Angioplasty: During balloon angioplasty a catheter (small, thin tube) is inserted through an artery in the upper thigh to open a narrow or blocked artery, allowing improved blood flow.
- Lower Extremity Bypass: With a bypass, the surgeon creates a connection between the arteries in your leg above and below the area of blockage. During this procedure, our surgeons attach an alternative blood vessel (either a prosthetic tube or the patient's own vein) to create a new, unobstructed passage to reroute and direct blood flow to the rest of the leg.
- Medical Management: Fortunately, not all patients require surgical intervention. In some cases, exercise therapy and appropriate medications can be used to treat peripheral artery disease.
You and your surgeon will discuss all available treatment options and tailor your therapy to your unique situation.
Research and Clinical Trials
Our team has a long history of pioneering medical breakthroughs and innovative treatments. We transform our basic and translational research into bedside care for patients who need limb salvage care.
We are also constantly advancing care through our clinical trials, providing our patients with access to new, advanced treatments before they are available to the public. Contact your physician to learn more about participating in one of our trials.
You can also make an appointment with our providers by:
– Scheduling a virtual video visit to see a provider from the comfort of your home
– Requesting an online second opinion from our specialists
To speak to someone directly, please call 1-773-702-6128. If you have symptoms of an urgent nature, please call your doctor or go to the emergency room immediately.
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UChicago Medicine limb salvage expert makes an impact on patients on Chicago’s South Side
UChicago Medicine vascular surgeon Trissa Babrowski is deeply committed to treating patients on the South Side of Chicago through the Limb Salvage Program. That's why some of her patients call her the 'Limb Whisperer.'