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N Engl J Med. 1994 Sep 29;331(13):854-60.

Assessment and management of foot disease in patients with diabetes.

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  • 1Department of Medicine, Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine, Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, Hershey 17033.


Limb- or life-threatening complications in patients with diabetes can be prevented with an integrated, multidisciplinary approach. Most patients seen in clinical practice are in the early stages of the disease process. Glycemic control retards the progression of neuropathy, which is the most important risk factor for ulceration. Early detection of the loss of protective sensation and implementation of strategies to prevent ulceration will reduce the rates of limb-threatening complications. Clinicians should routinely examine the feet of diabetic patients. Education in foot care, proper footwear, and close follow-up are required to prevent or promptly detect neuropathic injury. If ulceration occurs, removal of pressure from the site of the ulcer and careful management of the wound will allow healing in most cases. The failure to heal despite these measures should prompt a search for associated arterial insufficiency. If infection is present, appropriate antimicrobial therapy combined with immediate surgical intervention, including revascularization when necessary, will increase the chances of saving the limb. With this comprehensive approach, it is possible to achieve the goal of a 40 percent decrease in amputation rates among diabetic patients by the year 2000.

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