A Life and Limb Saving Team Effort
By Erika Z. Byrd
Photography by Ethan Kaminsky
“Many people don’t realize how risky it can be to have an open wound,” said Katie Schnaser, FACHE, program director of the Advanced Wound Healing and Amputation Prevention Center. “Partly because some people have been living with chronic wounds for months or years, but they open you up to risk of infection, risk for hospitalization, and if on a lower extremity, a leg or foot, the risk of amputation.”
There is a sense of urgency in getting a wound treated. The Advanced Wound Healing and Amputation Prevention Center at Desert Regional has locations in Palm Springs and La Quinta and treats all types of wounds, but specializes in chronic and difficult to heal wounds. Some wounds are associated with complications from diabetes or poor circulation. Others result from pressure ulcers, non-healing surgical wounds or trauma. The center also treats chronic bone infections and late effects of radiation.
“I still have my leg!” said Anna Sanzberro who injured her leg on a submarine ladder in Barbados in January 2015. For anyone else, it might have been a minor injury, but she has lipo-lymphedema – an inherited condition which causes problems with circulation and thus healing. She was fearful. Her mother who had this condition ended up spending her latter days as a bilateral amputee.
“Some people might prefer photos (from vacation), but I have a shiny pink scar – a physical reminder. Yes, there was some negative afterward, but a whole lot of positive including meeting probably the best group of clinicians ever. I’ve never felt so well taken care of,” she said.
Living in Redlands, Sanzberro saw several physicians before receiving a referral to Desert Regional. “Every physician I saw said, ‘You need wound care. You need a professional to treat this,'” she said.
The Advanced Wound Healing and Amputation Prevention Center employs the latest techniques and technology for wound care including:
• Hyperbaric oxygen (HBO) therapy
• Blood flow restoration
• Foot reconstruction
• Skin grafting and bioengineered skin substitutes
• Offloading techniques such as special shoes or casts to take pressure off the wound so it can heal
• Compression therapy and specialty dressings
Through a course of debridement to remove unhealthy tissue with a scalpel and compression therapy, Sanzberro’s wound was healed in less than two months, but many patients are healed in about a month.
“We are really proud of our median 28 days to heal achievement,” said Schnaser.
Under the medical direction of Oscar J. Paz- Altschul, MD, a trauma surgeon specializing in treatment of burns, the center’s multidisciplinary team includes vascular surgeons, a podiatric surgeon trained in limb salvage and other physicians specializing in hyperbaric medicine, wound care and infectious diseases, along with a highly trained and compassionate support staff.
“We have a really big vision,” said Schnaser. “Our goal is not just to impact our patients, but the entire Coachella Valley by bringing the rate of amputation down in the community at large. We are creating a paradigm shift by providing patient education and continuing medical education to local physicians to let them know amputation should not be a forgone conclusion. With early, advanced intervention, patients have options.”
Advanced Wound Healing and Amputation Prevention Center®
• 1150 N. Indian Canyon Dr., Palm Springs
• 47647 Caleo Bay, La Quinta
Office Affiliation: Desert Regional Medical Center