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Pioneering Frostbite Treatment

One Minnesota doctor and his team have discovered a new treatment that reduces the need for amputations.

Good news for frostbite victims: A pioneering treatment could save even the worst cases of frozen fingers and toes, according to a study released last March at the Society of Interventional Radiology’s annual meeting. Under current treatments, severe frostbite often ends in gangrene and amputation–when thawed, frozen blood vessels spasm and clot, cutting off blood flow and killing tissue. But Minnesota-based Dr. George Edmonson and his team have successfully developed a new treatment: After warming the frostbitten area, they pump dye into the patient’s arteries, take x-rays to determine which vessels remain frozen, and inject drugs directly at the trouble points. Edmonson estimates that the method has prevented amputations in 50 to 75 percent of his patients over the past 15 years. “We’re opening arteries that are blocked so that tissue can heal and limbs can be salvaged,” he says. “We are able to reopen even the smallest arteries.”

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