Background: The diabetic foot ulcer (DFU) is one of the most prevalent complications of diabetes mellitus and often develops severe effects that can lead to amputation. A non-healing “minor” amputation often precedes a major amputation resulting in a negative impact on the function and quality of life of the patients. Stem cell-based therapies have emerged as a promising option to improve healing, and the adipose tissue is an abundant and easy to access source. The injection of autologous micro-fragmented adipose tissue at the amputation stump of a diabetic population undergoing a lower limb minor amputation was evaluated and compared with the standard care.
Methods: In this randomized controlled trial with two arms (parallel assignment) and no masking, 114 patients undergoing a lower limb minor amputation were randomized to standard of care or to micro-fragmented adipose tissue injection prepared using a minimal manipulation technique (Lipogems®) in a closed system. Clinical outcomes were determined monthly up to 6 months. Primary endpoint of the study was the evaluation of the healing rate and time after the minor amputation. Secondary endpoints included the assessment of safety, feasibility, technical success, relapse rate, skin tropism, and intensity of pain. Results At 6 months, 80% of the micro-fragmented adipose tissue-treated feet healed and 20% failed as compared with the control group where 46% healed and 54% failed (p = 0.0064). No treatment-related adverse events nor relapses were documented, and technical success was achieved in all cases. The skin tropism was improved in the treatment group, and the pain scale did not differ between the two groups.
Conclusion: The results of this randomized controlled trial suggest that the local injection of autologous micro-fragmented adipose tissue is a safe and valid therapeutic option able to improve healing rate following minor amputations of irreversible DFU. The technique overcomes several stem cell therapy-related criticisms and its potential in wound care should be better evaluated and the therapeutic indications could be expanded. Trial registration ClinicalTrials.gov number: NCT03276312. Date of registration: September 8, 2017 (retrospectively registered).