Best foot forward

Hertfordshire University researchers have developed a foot wound teaching model dubbed Betty that could play a key role in reducing the risk of diabetes-related foot ulcers.

A foot wound teaching model developed by academics at Hertfordshire University could play a key role in improving the care of patients with diabetes and reducing the risk of diabetes-related foot ulcers.

In 2008, the Tissue Viability Team in the university’s School of Nursing and Midwifery developed George, a 3D model of a man complete with a pressure ulcer, a surgical incision that can be removed to reveal a large abdominal wound and a removable fungating tumour.

Following the success of George in the classroom, the team went on to develop Betty (pictured below): a foot model complete with a removable pressure ulcer, a neuropathic ulcer and gangrenous toes.

The development of Betty was led by Julie Vuolo, a senior lecturer at the school who collaborated with Tina Moore, a recent graduate from the university’s Model Design course.

Diabetes affects approximately 1.9 million adults in the UK, with a possible further 500,000 undiagnosed. These numbers have doubled since 1991 and continue to rise, with factors such as obesity and a lack of exercise playing a role in the disease’s development.

Betty has been designed to illustrate many of the foot-related problems associated with diabetes, including ulceration, gangrene, callus formation and crowded toes.

‘It is very common for diabetics to develop foot ulcers due to compromised blood supply and there is a big risk of amputations among this group,’ said Vuolo. ‘Betty allows us to teach students about what happens when people develop diabetes and to show them how to treat the wounds early enough to help avoid amputation.’