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The diabetic foot 

The diabetic foot
The diabetic foot

Michael Edmonds

and Alethea. Foster

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date: 06 July 2022

At some time in their life, 15% of people with diabetes develop foot ulcers, which are highly susceptible to infection. This may spread rapidly leading to overwhelming tissue destruction and amputation: indeed, 85% of amputations are preceded by an ulcer and there is an amputation in a person with diabetes every 30 seconds throughout the world (1). Evidence-based protocols for diabetic foot ulcers have been developed (2), and diabetic foot programmes that have promoted a multidisciplinary approach to heal foot ulcers with aggressive management of infection and ischaemia have achieved a substantial decrease in amputation rates (3, 4). Furthermore, a reduction in amputations has been reported nationwide in diabetic patients throughout the Netherlands (5). Recently, a decrease in major amputation incidence has been reported in diabetic as well as in nondiabetic patients in Helsinki (6). These reports have stressed the importance of early recognition of the ‘at-risk’ foot, the prompt institution of preventive measures, and the provision of rapid and intensive treatment of foot infection and also evascularization in multidisciplinary foot clinics. Such measures can reduce the number of amputations in diabetic patients.

Systematic reviews on prevention and treatment have been carried out, e.g. see Eldor et al. (7), and national guidelines have recently been formulated (8, 9). An International Consensus developed in 1999 was re-launched in revised form as an interactive DVD (10, 11) in 2007.

This chapter outlines a simple classification of the diabetic foot into the neuropathic and neuroischaemic foot. It then describes a simple staging system of the natural history of the diabetic foot and a treatment plan for each stage. Successful management of the diabetic foot needs the expertise of a multidisciplinary team which should include physician, podiatrist, nurse, orthotist, radiologist, and surgeon working closely together, within the focus of a diabetic foot clinic.

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