COMPARATIVE STUDY
JOURNAL ARTICLE
REVIEW

Diabetic foot infections: stepwise medical and surgical management

David G Armstrong, Benjamin A Lipsky
International Wound Journal 2004, 1 (2): 123-32
16722884
Foot complications are common among diabetic patients; foot ulcers are among the more serious consequences. These ulcers frequently become infected, with potentially disastrous progression to deeper spaces and tissues. If not treated promptly and appropriately, diabetic foot infections can become incurable or even lead to septic gangrene, which may require foot amputation. Diagnosing infection in a diabetic foot ulcer is based on clinical signs and symptoms of inflammation. Properly culturing an infected lesion can disclose the pathogens and provide their antibiotic susceptibilities. Specimens for culture should be obtained after wound debridement to avoid contamination and optimise identification of pathogens. Staphylococcus aureus is the most common isolate in these infections; the increasing incidence of methicillin-resistant S. aureus over the past two decades has further complicated antibiotic treatment. While chronic infections are often polymicrobial, many acute infections in patients not previously treated with antibiotics are caused by a single pathogen, usually a gram-positive coccus. We offer a stepwise approach to treating diabetic foot infections. Most patients must first be medically stabilised and any metabolic aberrations should be addressed. Antibiotic therapy is not required for uninfected wounds but should be carefully selected for all infected lesions. Initial therapy is usually empirical but may be modified according to the culture and sensitivity results and the patient's clinical response. Surgical intervention is usually required in cases of retained purulence or advancing infection despite optimal medical therapy. Possible additional indications for surgical procedures include incision and drainage of an abscess, debridement of necrotic material, removal of any foreign bodies, arterial revascularisation and, when needed, amputation. Most foot ulcers occur on the plantar surface of the foot, thus requiring a plantar incision for any drainage procedure.

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