Researchers say on a daily basis around 275 Australians develop type 2 diabetes and worldwide, every 30 seconds a person somewhere has a lower limb amputated because of diabetic foot disease.
Scientists at Queensland University of Technology (QUT) say new research they have conducted suggests that oxygen treatment could prevent this from happening as the oxygen may help diabetics heal.
An international team of researchers led by mathematicians at QUT's Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation at Kelvin Grove, modelled the use of hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) - HBOT is when the body is intermittently exposed to pure oxygen under pressure in order to heal the chronic wounds that lead to the need for amputation.
QUT mathematician Jennifer Flegg says a small cut on the foot of a diabetic can have catastrophic effects because their wounds do not heal the same way as normal wounds because of many factors including reduced blood flow.
Mrs Flegg says their modelling showed that HBOT applied intermittently under pressure to a diabetic wound speeds up the healing but only HBOT, and not oxygen applied with no extra pressure, stimulates healing of these chronic wounds.
She says they also found that HBOT must be continued until the wound has completely healed in order for it to be effective and individual wounds need to be treated differently.
Mrs Flegg says each patient has different healing capacities with HBOT and their modelling shows that there should be a research focus on individual treatment protocols in order to optimize the outcome for each patient.
An article on the research by Mrs Flegg, Professor Ian Turner and Emeritus Professor Sean McElwain from QUT and Professor Helen Byrne from the Centre for Mathematical Medicine and Biology at the University of Nottingham will be published in the Public Library of Science (PLoS): Computational Biology.