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Using telehealth to reduce amputations in small communities

Surgeon Misty Humphries is leading a project to expand access to vascular care.

UC Davis Health experts use telehealth to expand wound assessments and reduce amputations

(SACRAMENTO) — The UC Davis Vascular Center has launched a telehealth initiative to improve assessments and care for patients who live in small communities and have lower-extremity ulcers due to peripheral artery disease (PAD) or diabetes. The goal is to reduce complications of these ulcers, including amputation, without the need for travel to a large, hospital-based vascular practice or emergency room. 

Misty Humphries

Surgeon Misty Humphries is leading a project to expand access to vascular care.

So far, the project team has community partners in Sonora, Placerville and Lone Pine, with plans to add three more sites over the next year. It is funded by a $750,000, five-year grant from the National Institutes of Health and led by Misty Humphries, associate professor of vascular surgery. 

“Leg and foot ulcers often get treated when they are severe and the need for complex intervention is fairly urgent,” Humphries said. “We want to engage providers in outlying areas in a way that is efficient and convenient for them and their patients, who should be treated earlier in the disease process and as close to home as possible.” 

Lower-limb ulcers are caused by reduced circulation, usually due to PAD, diabetes or both. Smoking, high blood pressure and high cholesterol are also risk factors. These ulcers are most dangerous when they don’t heal and, potentially, lead to difficult-to-treat infections. Each year, nearly 200,000 people in the U.S. undergo PAD- or diabetes-related leg amputations. 

Using any device — such as a laptop, tablet or phone — UC Davis vascular surgeons can connect with physicians at partner sites to guide patient assessments and treatment plans. They also help patients make lifestyle and other changes to better manage their disease and reduce symptoms. When surgery is needed, community physicians can refer their patients to UC Davis Medical Center. 

In addition to having profound benefits for patients, Humphries believes the project is helping community physicians become more aware of the benefits of specialty consultations for vascular disease. 

“Every patient with a chronic blood vessel condition should have access to providers who understand its potential complexities of the range of options for treating it,” she said.

The UC Davis Vascular Center is dedicated to providing comprehensive, state-of-the-art care for conditions ranging from esthetic vein problems to complex, life-threatening vascular diseases. Our clinic team coordinates the efforts of multiple specialists for a complete, seamless and integrated approach to care, including diagnostic evaluations and treatment plans that can encompass medical management, minimally invasive procedures and surgical reconstructions.