Vascular surgeon Dr Ramon Varcoe has made it his life's mission to reduce diabetes-related amputations
“If you’re told that you need to have a limb amputated, get a second opinion," is the unambiguous advice from Dr Ramon Varcoe, leading vascular surgeon at Sydney’s Prince of Wales hospital.
Dr Varcoe and his team perform limb saving procedures every week using advanced refinements of a technique known as endovascular revascularisation. This involves passing a wire into the arteries of patients and inflating them with a balloon before inserting a stent that acts like scaffolding to keep the arteries open. This helps improve blood flow and gives the limb a much better chance of survival.
A surgeon for more than 20 years, Dr Varcoe has seen significant developments in the field of vascular surgery in that time.
“When I first started training, there were a huge number of amputations on the vascular ward.
“The face of vascular surgery has completely changed. We now focus on a minimally invasive approach to surgery so that we can minimise the risk to patients.
“Often we can perform surgery as a day procedure and there has been a massive reduction in major amputations as a result. People who have to have minor amputation will usually go home within a few days.
“In fact, we looked at the experience here at the Prince of Wales Hospital over an eight-year period and we were amazed to see that we had reduced the number of major amputations by more than 60 per cent. It reinforces that taking a minimally invasive approach to saving limbs can be as effective, or even more effective, than old open surgery techniques.
“In my early years at the hospital, one in five people who came in with Critical Limb Ischemia would end up with limb loss, and we have now reduced that to around one in fifteen.”