Diabetic foot infection

Revision as of 06:46, 27 February 2019 by Rossdonaldson1 (talk | contribs) (Disposition)


  • 1st key factor is to assess extent and depth of ulcer (typically more extensive than they appear)
    • Ulcer depth is important predictor of healing rate, osteomyelitis (OM) & risk of amputation.
  • Failure of ulcer to heal by 50% or more after 1 month of treatment is a strong predictor that the ulcer is unlikely to heal after 3 months.
  • 75% of patients have polymicrobial infection, usu 70% are gram positive
  • 50% or more of patients with SEVERE diabetic foot infections will have no systemic signs and symptoms of infection (i.e. fever, tachycardia, leukocytosis, left shift)
  • Recurrence or amputation is 50-70% over 3-5 yrs. Overall, 50-80% will heal within 6 months with optimal care.
  • Diabetes mellitus ulcers usually occur at areas of increased pressure (sole of foot) or friction
    • Venous ulcers usually present above malleoli with irregular borders
    • Arterial ulcers usually found on the toes or shins, with pale, "punched-out" borders (typically painful)

Clinical Features

Infection in ulcer bed with mild surrounding erythema (not probe-able to bone)
Classic diabetic plantar ulcer overlying the third metatarsal head with purulent drainage. Ability to probe to bone confirmed osteomyelitis.


  • Ask about recent trauma (may have been unnoticed, and may include ill-fitting footwear)
  • Duration of current lesions
  • Associated systemic symptoms
  • Prior treatments

Physical Exam

  • Determine ulcer location, dimensions, depth, and appearance
  • Note hair and nail growth, determine vascular status (palpate DP, PT, and popliteal pulse)
  • Probe ulceration site, note involvement of bone, joint, tendon, or sinus tract formation
    • Use sterile probe, if hit bone chance of OM 90% higher

Differential Diagnosis

Foot infection

Look A-Likes




  • Obtain ABI on all patients with: nonpalpable DP/PT, claudication symptoms, ischemic foot pain
    • Consider vascular consult if abnormal:
      • ABI <0.4 (severe obstruction)
      • ABI 0.4-0.69 (mod obstruction)


  • Chem 10, CBC, Coags, A1c, consider ESR/CRP (useful for monitoring response to treatment)
  • ESR >40 increased chance of OM 12 fold, an ESR >70 makes diagnosis nearly certain.


  • X-rays to detect soft tissue gas, foreign body, OM, or structural foot deformities
    • OM: x-ray changes occur late in disease, negative xrays do not exclude
  • MRI to eval for OM (not usually done in ED)


  • Determine presence/extent of infection and likelihood of OM/fasciitis
  • Consider Charcot arthropathy (diabetic neuropathic osteoarthropathy)
    • commonly missed diagnosis
    • requires different management (total contact cast, NWB)
  • Diabetes mellitus foot ulcer infection presumed if:
    • 2 or more of following: erythema, warmth, tenderness, or swelling
    • OR if pus coming from ulcer site or nearby sinus tract
  • Severe diabetes mellitus foot infection if:
    • Abnormal vital signs
    • Rim of erythema surrounding ulcer or ulcer >2 cm in diameter
    • Lymphangitic streaking or signs of fasciitis (crepitus, skip lesions, severe TTP, bullae), or if probe reaches bone/joint/tendon

Likelihood of Osteomyolysis

  • Factors that increase likelihood of osteomyolysis:
    • Visible bone or probe to bone
    • Ulcer >2cm in size
    • ESR >70
    • Ulcer duration >2 weeks


Noninfected chronic wounds[1]

  • Prophylactic antibiotics not indcated
  • For clinically uninfected wounds, do not collect a specimen for culture
  • Moist dressing to allow for healing and proper footwear to prevent worsening abrasions

Infected Wounds[1]

  • Consider wound culture prior to starting empiric antibiotic therapy. However cultures may be unnecessary for a mild infection in a patients who have not recently received antibiotic therapy.
  • Coverage is targeted at MSSA + Strep)
  • Strict non-weight bearing, tight glycemic control, meticulous wound care

Severe infection[1]

  • Admit with surgical consult
  • Empiric therapy directed at Pseudomonas aeruginosa is NOT necessary except for patients with risk factors for true infection with this organism
  • MRSA coverage in a patient with a prior history of MRSA infection


Associated organisms include Staphylococcus, Streptococcus, Enterococcus, Enterobacteriaceae, Proteus, Bacteroides, and Pseudomonas, and Klebsiella

Superficial Mild Infections

Prior antibiotic treatment or moderate infections

Inpatient Treatment


  • Noninfected chronic wounds: outpatient management

See Also

External Links


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 2012 Infectious Diseases Society of America Clinical Practice Guideline for the Diagnosis and Treatment of Diabetic Foot Infections full text