WASHINGTON—For diabetic veterans, a new device available through the VA may prevent foot ulcers—and possibly amputations.

Veteran James Pauley learns how to use the Podimetric mat at the Richmond VA Medical Center. Kate Wood, of Podimetrics, assists.

The VA treated more than 75,000 diabetic foot ulcers last year at a median cost of $47,000. That’s more than $3.5 billion just for foot care.

Those numbers do not include the human cost, however. Foot ulcers precede 85% of diabetes-related amputations, according to the American Podiatric Medical Association. Last year, more than 9,000 veterans had lower extremity amputations, with more than 3,000 of those involving the loss of a foot.

“Many of these amputations in diabetics can’t be prevented. By the time veterans come in, it’s too late,” said VA’s national program director for podiatry Jeffrey Robbins, DPM. “Overall, the VA has maintained an amputation rate of 1.4% in these patients, but the real measure of improvement comes from keeping amputations to minor ones; it’s better to lose a toe than a leg. Major amputations have been steadily declining.”

Based on a successful trial in Arizona and California, the VA hopes that putting new technology in the hands—and at the feet—of diabetic veterans at risk of foot ulcers can knock down the rate of both ulcers and amputations.

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