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Neuropathy, claw toes, intrinsic muscle volume, and plantar aponeurosis thickness in diabetic feet.

BACKGROUND: The objective of this study was to explore the relationships between claw toe deformity, peripheral neuropathy, intrinsic muscle volume, and plantar aponeurosis thickness using computed tomography (CT) images of diabetic feet in a cross-sectional analysis.

METHODS: Forty randomly-selected subjects with type 2 diabetes were selected for each of the following four groups (n = 10 per group): 1) peripheral neuropathy with claw toes, 2) peripheral neuropathy without claw toes, 3) non-neuropathic with claw toes, and 4) non-neuropathic without claw toes. The intrinsic muscles of the foot were segmented from processed CT images. Plantar aponeurosis thickness was measured in the reformatted sagittal plane at 20% of the distance from the most inferior point of the calcaneus to the most inferior point of the second metatarsal. Five measurement sites in the medial-lateral direction were utilized to fully characterize the plantar aponeurosis thickness. A linear mixed-effects analysis on the effects of peripheral neuropathy and claw toe deformity on plantar aponeurosis thickness and intrinsic muscle volume was performed.

RESULTS: Subjects with concurrent neuropathy and claw toes had thicker mean plantar aponeurosis (p < 0.006) and may have had less mean intrinsic muscle volume (p = 0.083) than the other 3 groups. The effects of neuropathy and claw toes on aponeurosis thickness were synergistic rather than additive. A similar pattern may exist for intrinsic muscle volume, but results were not as conclusive. A negative correlation was observed between plantar aponeurosis thickness and intrinsic muscle volume (R2  = 0.323, p < 0.001).

CONCLUSIONS: Subjects with concurrent neuropathy and claw toe deformity were associated with the smallest intrinsic foot muscle volumes and the thickest plantar aponeuroses. Intrinsic muscle atrophy and plantar aponeurosis thickening may be related to the development of claw toes in the presence of neuropathy.

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