Surgical intervention for chronic deformities and ulcerations has become an important component in the management of patients with diabetes mellitus. Such patients are no longer relegated to wearing cumbersome braces or footwear for deformities that might otherwise be easily corrected. Although surgical intervention in these often high-risk individuals is not without risk, the outcomes are fairly predictable when patients are properly selected and evaluated. In this brief review, we discuss the rationale and indications for diabetic foot surgery, focusing on the surgical decompression of deformities that frequently lead to foot ulcers. (J Am Podiatr Med Assoc 100(5): 369–384, 2010)
Retrospective and prospective studies have shown that elevated plantar pressure is a causative factor in the development of many plantar ulcers in diabetic patients and that ulceration is often a precursor of lower-extremity amputation. Herein, we review the evidence that relieving areas of elevated plantar pressure (off-loading) can prevent and heal plantar ulceration.
There is no consensus in the literature concerning the role of off-loading through footwear in the primary or secondary prevention of ulcers. This is likely due to the diversity of intervention and control conditions tested, the lack of information about off-loading efficacy of the footwear used, and the absence of a target pressure threshold for off-loading. Uncomplicated plantar ulcers should heal in 6 to 8 weeks with adequate off-loading. Total-contact casts and other nonremovable devices are most effective because they eliminate the problem of nonadherence to recommendations for using a removable device. Conventional or standard therapeutic footwear is not effective in ulcer healing. Recent US and European surveys show that there is a large discrepancy between guidelines and clinical practice in off-loading diabetic foot ulcers. Many clinics continue to use methods that are known to be ineffective or that have not been proved to be effective while ignoring methods that have demonstrated efficacy.
A variety of strategies are proposed to address this situation, notably the adoption and implementation of recently established international guidelines, which are evidence based and specific, by professional societies in the United States and Europe. Such an approach would improve the often poor current expectations for healing diabetic plantar ulcers. (J Am Podiatr Med Assoc 100(5): 360–368, 2010)
Plantar heel pain is often managed through podiatric and physical therapy interventions. Numerous differential diagnoses may be implicated in patients presenting with plantar heel pain; however, symptoms are often attributed to plantar fasciitis. Abductor hallucis, flexor digitorum brevis, and quadratus plantae share proximal anatomic attachment sites and mechanical function with the plantar fascia. Although these plantar intrinsic muscles each perform isolated digital actions based on fiber orientation and attachment sites, they function collectively to resist depression of the lateral and medial longitudinal arches of the foot. Overuse injury is the primary contributing factor in tendinopathy. The close anatomic proximity and mechanical function of these muscles relative to the plantar fascia suggests potential for proximal plantar intrinsic tendinopathy as a result of repetitive loading during gait and other weightbearing activities. To date, this diagnosis has not been proposed in the scientific literature. Future studies should seek to confirm or refute the existence of proximal plantar intrinsic tendinopathic changes in patients with acute and chronic plantar heel pain through diagnostic imaging studies, analysis of lactate concentration in pathologic versus nonpathologic tendons, and response to specific podiatric and physical therapy interventions germane to tendinopathy of these muscles.
Due to the exponential increase in the quantity and quality of podiatric medicine–related research during the past decade, podiatric physicians are inundated with an insurmountable volume of research relevant to clinical practice. Systematic reviews can refine this literature by using explicit, rigorous, and reproducible methods to identify, critically appraise, and synthesize the best evidence from all clinical trials to answer clearly defined clinical questions. The Cochrane Collaboration is an international not-for-profit organization created to improve the user-friendliness and accessibility of medical literature mainly through preparing and maintaining systematic reviews of health-care interventions. The Cochrane Library currently contains more than 50 podiatric medicine–relevant systematic reviews summarizing and synthesizing evidence from many hundreds of randomized controlled trials evaluating interventions for foot problems. Although more than 60 countries worldwide have open online access to The Cochrane Library, in the United States, only the state of Wyoming has free access to full-text reviews. In an era demanding an evidence-based approach for every clinical intervention, high-quality systematic reviews streamline podiatric medical literature by reducing the time, cost, and training necessary to establish a solid evidence base for practice. (J Am Podiatr Med Assoc 99(3): 260–266, 2009)