Speaking of taking care of your diabetic feet, I was contacted this week by a European company called MeDaVinci working feverishly on a high-tech home scanning device that they hope will prevent amputations in thousands of patients who already have neuropathy.
Their system is called the Vincent 50 — after the St.Vincent Declaration, a decree signed by global health organizations in 1989 that vowed to cut the rate of diabetes-related foot amputations by 50%.
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Yes, the Vincent 50 (above) is a chunky box that looks like something dreamed up for The Jetsons, but it is 2010 state-of-the-art, the company tells me. Meant to be used daily by patients with existing foot damage, it automatically takes images of the soles and a "temperature profile of the foot." This precise information is then immediately transmitted to a call center, where trained nurses "can make an overlay with earlier images and distract the pixels, to see if there are changes in inflammation or callus formation. If so, the patient is called and urged to visit the doctor or podiatrist."
Company spokesman Ger Biesbrouck writes to me from Amsterdam that his team was "quite surprised" to discover the video entry in this year's DiabetesMine Design Challenge on the FootSafe foot scanner, because his team believed they had no competition with this type of foot scanner.
What's different about the Vincent 50, I'm told, is that it makes "non weight-bearing" images of the foot, so professionals can get a better view of possible damages. "See what is happening if you press your hand against a glass," Ger writes. "It turns white, but you would like to see the red aspect." When the patient has to stand on the scanner, the pressure itself alters the image. Without pressure, the image shows every aspect of the foot and skin, pure and simple.
MeDaVinci already has a European patent on the technology, and patents are pending in the US and Japan, expected to be granted early 2010. My question of course was consumer price point: will the US health plans really cover such a costly home device? If not, who can afford such a fancy home scanner?
"We only see a market with high-risk patients, with poor sight and stiff joints, who already had an ulcer or minor amputation. From statistics we know that within a year 50% will develop a new problem. Preventing this problem will justify the placement of a scanner," Ger adds.
Well, in Europe that is probably the case. But no guarantees in this country, where health care has gone from a "hairball" to a national battlefield. Nevertheless, the financial case for an ultra-sensitive home foot scanner for people with diabetic foot damage is a strong one. Consider:
* According to the International Diabetes Federation, there are over 1 million amputations worldwide each year
* Every 30 seconds, a lower limb is lost somewhere in the world as a consequence of diabetes
* The risk of amputation is a life long threat to diabetic patients; following an amputation, 30 to 50% of patients will undergo a further amputation of (or part of) the other foot within 5 years
* The diabetic foot is now one of the major problems in health care for the coming decade
If you have neuropathy, I beg you to perform those daily checks. If you don't, and you're lazy like me, this might be a good wake up call to start paying attention to your diabetic feet!