Every day, more than 500 Americans lose an upper or lower extremity to amputation—a life-altering intervention with a range of associated complications and costs. What’s more, that staggering number is on the rise, driven by an increase in the number of Americans with diabetes, who account for a full two-thirds of amputations for such conditions as infected foot ulcers.

To bend the trend, researchers are taking a fresh look at how to intervene before amputation becomes the treatment of last resort. With the creation of limb-salvage or limb-preservations teams, hospitals are working to harness innovations, from new care models to new surgical approaches, to create new standards of care. Part of the approach involves developing more standardized strategies to avoid amputations.

Determining when a given impaired limb is beyond salvage can be a very challenging clinical question, and there is a real shortage of consensus and data to guide treatment decisions, notes Matthew Menard, MD, a vascular surgeon at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. He’s a principal investigator in a large, randomized clinical trial examining how to address impaired blood flow to limbs, by testing both treatment approaches and enhanced information-sharing.

“A multidisciplinary approach is a big component of the trial,” says Dr. Menard. “We know there are great benefits of having physicians with different skill sets assessing a given patient together.”

Read more on limb-sparing innovations in Proto.