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[NEWS] Townsville Hospital and Health Service - Queensland Australia


For the first time in Queensland, Townsville patients with diabetic ulcers will receive electromagnetic stimulation treatment in a bid to drive down soaring rates of preventable amputations in North Queensland.

The trial will test the technology on 50 patients using electromagnetic stimulation machines.

The technique has previously been used successfully to decrease the healing times for people with surgical wounds, burns and other slow healing wounds but has never been used for people with diabetic foot ulcers.

Diabetic foot ulcers form as a complication of diabetes and, if untreated and unmanaged, can lead to amputation in more than 90 per cent of cases.

Townsville HHS head of podiatry Amy Langley said clinicians had received training on the new machines and have now begun the trial.

“This is a really exciting clinical trial that has the potential to make a huge difference in the quality of lives for people with diabetic foot ulcers,” she said.

“A foot ulcer occurs when an area of skin has broken down compromising underlying tissue. People with diabetes are prone to poor circulation which can result in poor healing and leave the area vulnerable to an ulcer developing.

“Electromagnetic stimulation targets deep inside the wound and increases circulation in that area. Good circulation is a critical component to wound healing.”

The equipment for the trial has been purchased through Queensland Health’s New Technology Funding Evaluation Program ($60,000) with the Townsville HHS pitching in $40,000 through its study, education and research trust.

Data from the Australian Commission of Safety and Quality in Health Care has shown North Queensland regions have among the highest diabetes-related amputation rates in Australia.

Outback Queensland (2), Cairns (6) and Townsville (10) feature in the top 10 regions in Australia for the highest hospital admissions for diabetes-related amputations per 100,000 people.

Townsville Hospital diabetes and endocrinology staff specialist Associate Professor Usman Malabu said the electromagnetic stimulation study complemented a suite of major research into diabetes being conducted across the Townsville HHS.

“Hospital admissions and amputations as a result of diabetic foot ulcers are disproportionately high in this region when compared with most of Australia,” he said.

“This makes it vital that Townsville as the region’s major tertiary centre really leads the way in developing world-class treatment to drive down the number of people whose lives are getting adversely affected by diabetic foot ulcers.”

Podiatrist and research coordinator Julie Goodall said the electronic stimulation machines provided a more intensive treatment than the shockwave therapy trial announced earlier in the year.

“Shockwave therapy is used for wounds that without assistance would take months to heal and with this treatment we are hoping to reduce that to weeks,” Ms Goodall said.

“The electromagnetic treatment is for much more complex and deeper wounds and we are hoping that it will reduce the time it takes to heal from years to months.”

The Townsville HHS also continues to roll out a $500,000 diabetes telehealth trial funded by BUPA and the Australian Diabetes Society.

This trial is using 3D digital cameras to track the improvement or deterioration of foot ulcers.

Clinicians in regional areas can take a photo monitoring the length, width and depth of a foot ulcer and send it to a clinician in Townsville for review and reduces the needs for patients to travel to Townsville for a weekly or fortnightly appointment.



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