YOUR HEALTH: Avoiding amputation

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PHILADELPHIA, Pennsylvania – 51-year old Maria Horner is a nurse, a mom, and a sports fan who loves weekend games with her family.

It all almost came to a crashing halt after a devastating wreck in November 2014.

"My foot actually was off my leg, here, it was laying across the table."

By the time Maria reached a major medical center and was stabilized, orthopedic trauma surgeons didn't think they could fix her foot.

"If you have a problem with soft tissues that equals infection and amputation every day of the week," explained Dr. Ivan Tarkin, chief of Orthopedic Trauma Surgery with the University of Pennsylvania Medical Center.

Instead, Maria begged Dr. Tarkin to save her foot.

"I was the nurse that wanted to get back to work. I did not want to be an amputee. I wanted to get back to my lifestyle."

"With her, we needed to use an out-of-the-box type solution," said Dr. Tarkin.

In addition to the partial amputation, Maria's ankle was shattered.

Dr. Tarkin needed to bypass the broken pieces; choosing to try what's called a retrograde hindfoot nail procedure.

"I put up a rod from the bottom of her heel bone through where the ankle joint was, up into the leg, and then secured that rod with screws on either side."

A team of plastic surgeons carefully reattached the foot.   It took six months, but the bones fused together.

"I might be a little bit slower, but I'm still able to go," said Maria.   "It's a miracle, really."

BACKGROUND:  The most common reason for amputation is poor blood flow, which happens when arteries become narrowed or damaged.  When this occurs in the arms or legs, it`s referred to as peripheral arterial disease or PAD.  PAD most often occurs between the ages of 50 to 75.  Other reasons might be injury such as severe burn or accident.  People with diabetes, heart disease, or infection have a higher risk of complications from amputation than others.  Other complications may include joint deformity, hematoma, infection, wound opening, tissue death, and blood clot deep in the veins of the limbs or lung.   (Source:,P08292)

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