Frostbite patients may benefit from innovative fluorescence imaging technology

Major advancement allows physicians to visualize blood flow with handheld device at bedside

Physicians at Hennepin Healthcare have a new tool to help make life and limb-saving decisions in patients being evaluated for frostbite injury and other tissue perfusion concerns. Stryker’s SPY-PHI is a hand-held device that was made to be used in a surgical setting to visualize the quality of blood flow in vessels and micro vessels that provide oxygen to organs. HCMC is the first hospital in the state to implement this advanced technology in an acute setting.

“We’ve already realized SPY’s benefits when evaluating exposure patients for frostbite injury,” explains HCMC emergency physician Dr. Thomas Masters. “It may help physicians determine when the use of clot-busting medications is indicated, as well as when it’s not.”

SPY-PHI uses a near-infrared low powered laser light source to stimulate a fluorescent imaging agent that has been injected into the blood stream. The fluorescent agent binds to the proteins in blood and circulates through the body. When stimulated by near infrared light, the protein-bound agent emits a fluorescence signal which enables visualization of blood flowing through vessels and into tissue. The fluorescence is captured by a special camera, is processed and is displayed on a video monitor for the physician to review. Since the agent is bound to blood, where blood goes, it goes. If there is no fluorescence, it can mean that there is compromised blood flow.

“We hope that eventually it may have applications for crush injuries, necrotizing fasciitis, and other types of wounds,” said Dr. Masters.

Unlike traditional bone scans, which can be time-consuming to perform in an emergent situation, SPY technology does not involve ionizing radiation and utilizes a fluorescence imaging agent with a short half-life thus allowing surgeons to repeat perfusion assessment as needed.  

HCMC is a nationally recognized Level I Adult Trauma Center and Level 1 Pediatric Trauma Center with the largest emergency department in Minnesota. It is operated by Hennepin Healthcare System, Inc., a subsidiary corporation of Hennepin County. The comprehensive academic medical center and public teaching hospital and clinic system includes a 484-bed acute care hospital, primary care and specialty clinics located in Minneapolis and surrounding suburban communities, as well as home care and hospice services.

Firefighters for Healing Gift Donation, Ice Foot Challenge warm hearts (and feet)

On Tuesday, December 17, 2019 Firefighters for Healing will ring in the holiday season with their annual Gift Drop to patients in Hennepin Healthcare’s Burn Center. The excitement begins when the firefighters and gifts arrive on a Minneapolis Fire Department truck at Hennepin Healthcare’s 717 S. Sixth St. entrance between 10:45 and 11:45am.

“This is the 8th year Firefighters for Healing has brought gifts to our patients,” explains Dr. Ryan Fey, Burn and Critical Care Specialist at the Burn Center. “Their generosity and dedication is simply overwhelming, and our entire staff is uplifted by seeing the joy experienced by our patients. We cannot thank them enough.”

The Hennepin Healthcare Burn Center provides intensive, acute and rehabilitative burn care to children and adults from the Twin Cities and surrounding states who have sustained burn injuries and other complex wounds, including frostbite. In fact, they care for an average of 25 patients with frostbite each year requiring hospitalization. Many of these injuries are to the toes and feet.

Dr. Fey describes how this happens: “From the heart, these body parts are the last in line for blood supply. So they’re more likely to freeze up quickly – literally forming ice crystals inside the tissues – and cause blood flow to cease. Depending on how long the tissue is without blood, this process can lead to unrecoverable tissue death and amputation.”

Ice Foot Challenge
Icy FeetMaking sure those extremities are protected from the cold is essential. That’s why Hennepin EMS in partnership with the Hennepin Healthcare Employee Advisory Council is having an Ice Foot Challenge to raise awareness of their Hennepin EMS Holiday Sock Drive. Two groups will participate at 12:20 and 12:40pm and photo opportunities will be available immediately following the Firefighters for Healing Gift Drop event. Participants will experience what patients may feel when they don’t have adequate footwear to keep their feet warm and dry.

“Hennepin EMS frequently treats individuals with inadequate footwear and socks,” explains John Sylvester, Hennepin EMS paramedic and event organizer. “In the winter this can cause serious problems that can affect the whole body. One solution is high-quality, wool winter socks which are great insulators and moisture absorbers.”

To emphasize this point, Sylvester has invited Ice Foot Challenge participants to put on plastic “foot bags” and then submerge their feet into buckets of icy water for a goal time of 2 minutes. After the 2-minute Ice Foot Challenge, participants will be given warm socks to put on so they can experience what a difference high-quality winter socks can make in extreme cold conditions.

“Taking this challenge to really understand what it’s like to ‘walk in our patients’ shoes’ will hopefully raise awareness of this important need,” said Sylvester. “If we can prevent even one person from experiencing the pain of frostbite, then this campaign will have been a success.”

Firefighters for Healing is also making a generous donation of new socks for this effort today that will be given to patients in need served through Hennepin EMS and HCMC’s Emergency Department. New wool sock donations are welcomed and can be brought to the collection bin on the Skyway Level of HCMC’s Red Building. The Hennepin EMS Sock Drive runs through January 3, 2020.