Non-invasive technology could help diabetics avoid amputation

New non-invasive technology created by researchers at Columbia University could help diabetic patients to better detect and monitor peripheral arterial disease, a complication which often leads to the amputation of limbs, The Optical Society announced this week.

The technology, dubbed dynamic diffuse optical tomography, maps hemoglobin in a patient's body using near-infrared light, which helps to track blood flow to extremities like the hands and feet. Doctors shine the light on areas most likely to be impacted by PAD. The light's wavelengths then react to the body's hemoglobin by being absorbed when hemoglobin is present, and scattering when it's not.

Gautam Shrikhande, M.D., one of the study's authors, stressed the importance of early diagnosis of PAD, saying that changes in medication and lifestyle habits can help ease the affects of the disease.

"Patients with PAD experience foot pain, called 'claudication,' while walking," Shrikhande said. "This pain continues, even at rest, as the disease progresses. In more advanced stages, PAD patients develop sores or ulcers that won't heal. Then, cell death … occurs and amputation is often the only solution."

The researchers' findings were published in the Sept. 1 issue of Biomedical Optics Express.

Of late, technology's role in aiding diabetic patients has increased. An app created late last year by researchers at both the Worcester Polytechnic Institute and the University of Massachusetts Medical School known as "Sugar" integrates wirelessly with a patient's personal glucose meter and scale, tracking the patient's weight and sugar levels. The app sends messages to the patient when its technology senses are out of balance. It also enables patients to monitor the size and status of their foot ulcers.

What's more, WellDoc's DiabetesManager, which helped to improve A1c levels in diabetic patients in a clinical trial for which the results were published last year, will be prescribable to patients beginning in early 2013.

To learn more:
- here's The Optical Society's announcement
- here's the journal abstract