Over the last decade, over 50,000 soldiers have been injured during conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. In 2011, one in two injuries resulted in multiple amputations. Fortunately, soldiers are returning from conflict alive because of the advancements in body armor; however, many are coming home with one or multiple limb amputations and a new set of health challenges.
Skin disease is present in up to 74% of amputee patients who use a prosthetic device. These patients complain of discomfort, pain, rashes, skin ulcers, and prolonged infections at their stump site. In a recent survey, most Vietnam veterans had completely abandoned their prosthetic due to complications that resulted from the interface between the stump and the device. Multiple studies have shown that it is the single most common limitation to wearing a prosthesis.
At Johns Hopkins we have developed a program to help these young men and women—The Veteran/Amputee Skin Regeneration Program. The Program seeks to address the skin health issues associated with the long-term wear of a prosthesis. We have proven that by biologically altering the skin at the stump site we can change the skin into specialized skin—similar to that which is naturally found on healthy palms and soles. This “tough” skin is naturally resistant to mechanical (weight bearing) and chemical (contact dermatitis) stress. In the same way humans do not develop skin breakdown on the soles of their feet, putting on a prosthetic should be no different than wearing a shoe.
Although this project has had direct and indirect support from federal funding by the National Institute of Health(NIH) and the Department of Defense(DoD), more support can broaden the speed and impact of our work. Please click on the link to make a gift if you would like to support this effort.