There is both increased interest and awareness in diabetes-associated Charcot foot arthropathy. The number of affected patients will likely increase as the incidence of both diabetes and morbid obesity increases. Many experts now favor surgical correction of the deformity rather than longitudinal management with accommodative bracing. In patients with open wounds and exposed bone and/or chronic osteomyelitis, it is controversial whether resolution of the bony infection should be achieved before attempting surgical correction of the acquired deformity.
During a 78-month period, 178 patients underwent surgical correction of deformity with diabetes-associated Charcot foot or ankle arthropathy by a single surgeon. Seventy-three had evidence of osteomyelitis at the time of surgery. There were 41 males and 32 females. Their average age was 57.9 (range, 31 to 76) years, and body mass index was 36.9 (range, 21.8 to 60.9). The clinical diagnosis of osteomyelitis was made by (a) an open wound overlying the deformity with exposed bone and chronic drainage; (b) a history of biopsy-diagnosed osteomyelitis that was not currently draining, but had clinical and pathologic evidence of abnormal bone in the region of the previous infection; or (c) a history of previous wound overlying bony deformity with abnormal bone observed at the time of surgery. Surgery involved radical resection of the clinically infected bone, combined with acute correction of the deformity to a plantigrade foot. Parenteral culture-specific antibiotic therapy was administered and monitored by an infectious disease comanagement service. A three-level preconstructed static circular external fixator was applied to maintain the surgically obtained correction.
Sixty-eight of 71 patients (95.7%) achieved limb salvage and were able to ambulate with commercially available therapeutic footwear. One patient died shortly after removal of the external fixator from unrelated causes. Three patients required amputation. Resolution of infection and wound closure was achieved in five patients following a second surgical debridement. Two noninfected wounds were resolved with local soft tissue flaps. Two patients have persistent noninfected wounds that have been resistant to wound care therapy.
A plantigrade noninfected foot can be achieved in patients with infected diabetic Charcot foot deformity with single-stage radical resection of osteomyelitis, correction of the deformity, maintenance of the correction with static external fixation, and culture-specific antibiotic therapy.