April 2012

Texas experience suggests amputees gain from support group participation

In the moment: Diabetes

By Jordana Bieze Foster

Participation in a support group for diabetic amputees is associated with significant clinical and educational benefits, according to unpublished data from the University of Texas Health Sciences Center San Antonio presented in March at the Diabetic Foot Global Conference (DFCon).

As part of a pilot study, researchers compared 15 amputees who participated in a support group and 15 matched amputees who did not. The group met once a month for one to two hours.

After 45 months, support group participants had significantly lower hemoglobin A1C levels and significantly greater understanding of the disease than those who were not group members, according to John Steinberg, DPM, an associate professor of plastic surgery at Georgetown University who was a fellow at UTHSC at the time of the study.

“A support group is an easy thing to do. It takes a room and an idea and a few people to start,” Steinberg said. “We struggled for years thinking it would be too hard, but I don’t give those excuses any credit. Just do it.”

Gary W. Gibbons, MD, chief of vascular surgery at Boston Medical Center, agreed.

“A support group makes people feel better about themselves, so they’re more likely to do better with a lot of the things we ask them to do,” Gibbons said.

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