Treatment for diabetic foot ulcers

PR Cavanagh, BA Lipsky, Andrew Bradbury, G Botek

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

332 Citations (Scopus)


People with diabetes develop foot ulcers because of neuropathy (sensory, motor, and autonomic deficits), ischaemia, or both. The initiating injury may be from acute mechanical or thermal trauma or from repetitively or continuously applied mechanical stress. Patients with clinically significant limb ischaemia should be assessed by a vascular surgeon to determine the need for angioplasty, stenting, or femorodistal bypass. When infection complicates a foot ulcer, the combination can be limb or life-threatening. Infection is defined clinically, but wound cultures reveal the causative pathogens. Tissue specimens are strongly preferred to wound swabs for wound cultures. Antimicrobial therapy should be guided by culture results, and should aim to cure the infection, not to heal the wound. Alleviation of the mechanical load on ulcers (off-loading) should always be a part of treatment. Neuropathic ulcers typically heal in 6 weeks with total contact casting, because it effectively relieves pressure at the ulcer site and enforces patient compliance. The success of other approaches to off-loading similarly depends on the patients' adherence to the effectiveness of pressure relief. Surgery to heal ulcers and prevent recurrence can include tenotomy, tendon lengthening, reconstruction, or removal of bony prominences. However, these procedures may result in secondary ulceration and other complications. Ulcer recurrence rates are high, but appropriate education for patients, the provision of posthealing footwear, and regular foot care can reduce rates of re-ulceration.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1725-1735
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 18 Nov 2005


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