Diabetic foot infections are a common cause of morbidity and mortality in the United States, and successful treatment often requires an aggressive and prolonged approach. Recent work has elucidated the importance of appropriate therapy for a given severity of diabetic foot infection, and highlighted the ongoing risk such patients have for subsequent invasive life-threatening infection should diabetic foot ulcers fail to heal. The authors describe the case of a man with diabetes who had prolonged, delayed healing of a diabetic foot ulcer. The ulcer subsequently became infected by methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). The infection was treated conservatively with oral therapy and minimal debridement. Several months later, he experienced MRSA bloodstream infection and complicating endocarditis. The case highlights the ongoing risk faced by patients when diabetic foot ulcers do not heal promptly, and emphasizes the need for aggressive therapy to promote rapid healing and eradication of MRSA.
Background: Diabetic foot osteomyelitis is a common infection where treatment involves multiple services, including infectious diseases, podiatry, and pathology. Despite its ubiquity in the hospital, consensus on much of its management is lacking.
Methods: Representatives from infectious diseases, podiatry, and pathology interested in quality improvement developed multidisciplinary institutional recommendations culminating in an educational intervention describing optimal diagnostic and therapeutic approaches to diabetic foot osteomyelitis (DFO). Knowledge acquisition was assessed by preintervention and postintervention surveys. Inpatients with forefoot DFO were retrospectively reviewed before and after intervention to assess frequency of recommended diagnostic and therapeutic maneuvers, including appropriate definition of surgical bone margins, definitive histopathology reports, and unnecessary intravenous antibiotics or prolonged antibiotic courses.
Results: A postintervention survey revealed significant improvements in knowledge of antibiotic treatment duration and the role of oral antibiotics in managing DFO. There were 104 consecutive patients in the preintervention cohort (April 1, 2018, to April 1, 2019) and 32 patients in the postintervention cohort (November 5, 2019, to March 1, 2020), the latter truncated by changes in hospital practice during the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic. Noncategorizable or equivocal disease reports decreased from before intervention to after intervention (27.0% versus 3.3%, respectively; P = .006). We observed nonsignificant improvement in correct bone margin definition (74.0% versus 87.5%; P = .11), unnecessary peripherally inserted central catheter line placement (18.3% versus 9.4%; P = .23), and unnecessary prolonged antibiotics (21.9% versus 5.0%; P = .10). In addition, by working as an interdisciplinary group, many solvable misunderstandings were identified, and processes were adjusted to improve the quality of care provided to these patients.
Conclusions: This quality improvement initiative regarding management of DFO led to improved provider knowledge and collaborative competency between these three departments, improvements in definitive pathology reports, and nonsignificant improvement in several other clinical endpoints. Creating collaborative competency may be an effective local strategy to improve knowledge of diabetic foot infection and may generalize to other common multidisciplinary conditions.