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Management of Diabetic Foot Ulcers
Kleopatra Alexiadou •John Doupis
To view enhanced content go to www.diabetestherapy-open.com
Received: December 23, 2011
The Author(s) 2012. This article is published with open access at Springerlink.com
Diabetic foot is a serious complication of
diabetes which aggravates the patient’s
condition whilst also having signiﬁcant
socioeconomic impact. The aim of the present
review is to summarize the causes and
pathogenetic mechanisms leading to diabetic
foot, and to focus on the management of this
important health issue. Increasing physicians’
awareness and hence their ability to identify the
‘‘foot at risk,’’ along with proper foot care, may
prevent diabetic foot ulceration and thus reduce
the risk of amputation.
Keywords: Debridement; Diabetic foot;
Dressings; Neuropathy; Off-loading;
Pathogenesis; Peripheral arterial disease;
Diabetic foot is one of the most signiﬁcant and
devastating complications of diabetes, and is
deﬁned as a foot affected by ulceration that is
associated with neuropathy and/or peripheral
arterial disease of the lower limb in a patient
with diabetes. The prevalence of diabetic foot
ulceration in the diabetic population is 4–10%;
the condition is more frequent in older patients
[1–3]. It is estimated that about 5% of all
patients with diabetes present with a history of
foot ulceration, while the lifetime risk of
diabetic patients developing this complication
is 15% [1–3].
The majority (60–80%) of foot ulcers will
heal, while 10–15% of them will remain active,
and 5–24% of them will ﬁnally lead to limb
amputation within a period of 6–18 months
after the ﬁrst evaluation. Neuropathic wounds
are more likely to heal over a period of 20 weeks,
while neuroischemic ulcers take longer and will
First Department of Propaedeutic Medicine, Athens
University Medical School, Laiko General Hospital,
J. Doupis (&)
Department of Internal Medicine and Diabetes
Clinic, Salamis Naval Hospital, Salamis Naval Base,
18900 Salamis, Greece
Enhanced content for this article is
available on the journal web site:
Diabetes Ther (2012) 3:4
more often lead to limb amputation . It has
been found that 40–70% of all nontraumatic
amputations of the lower limbs occur in
patients with diabetes . Furthermore, many
studies have reported that foot ulcers
precede approximately 85% of all amputations
performed in diabetic patients .
The risk of foot ulceration and limb
amputation increases with age and the
duration of diabetes [6,7]. The prevention of
diabetic foot is crucial, considering the negative
impact on a patient’s quality of life and the
associated economic burden on the healthcare
Diabetic foot ulceration is a major health
problem and its management involves a
multidisciplinary approach. This review aims to
provide a synopsis of the current management
strategies of diabetic foot ulcers, from prevention
to the options for treatment. The authors believe
that it may be useful to primary care physicians,
nurses, podiatrists, diabetologists, and vascular
surgeons, as well as all healthcare providers
involved in the prevention or management of
diabetic foot ulcers.
The most signiﬁcant risk factors for foot
ulceration are diabetic neuropathy, peripheral
arterial disease, and consequent traumas of the
Diabetic neuropathy is the common factor in
almost 90% of diabetic foot ulcers [9,10]. Nerve
damage in diabetes affects the motor, sensory,
and autonomic ﬁbers. Motor neuropathy causes
muscle weakness, atrophy, and paresis. Sensory
neuropathy leads to loss of the protective
sensation of pain, pressure, and heat.
Autonomic dysfunction causes vasodilation
and decreased sweating , resulting in a loss
of skin integrity, providing a site vulnerable to
microbial infection .
Peripheral arterial disease is 2–8 times more
common in patients with diabetes, starting at
an earlier age, progressing more rapidly, and
usually being more severe than in the general
population. It commonly affects the segments
between the knee and the ankle. It has been
proven to be an independent risk factor for
cardiovascular disease as well as a predictor of
the outcome of foot ulceration . Even minor
injuries, especially when complicated by
infection, increase the demand for blood in
the foot, and an inadequate blood supply may
result in foot ulceration, potentially leading to
limb amputation . The majority of foot
ulcers are of mixed etiology (neuroischemic),
particularly in older patients .
In patients with peripheral diabetic
neuropathy, loss of sensation in the feet leads
to repetitive minor injuries from internal
(calluses, nails, foot deformities) or external
causes (shoes, burns, foreign bodies) that are
undetected at the time and may consequently
lead to foot ulceration. This may be followed by
infection of the ulcer, which may ultimately
lead to foot amputation, especially in patients
with peripheral arterial disease.
Structural foot deformities and
abnormalities, such as ﬂatfoot, hallux valgus,
claw toes, Charcot neuroarthropathy, and
hammer foot, play an important role in the
pathway of diabetic foot ulcers since they
contribute to abnormal plantar pressures and
therefore predispose to ulceration.
Other risk factors for foot ulceration include
a previous history of foot ulceration or
amputation, visual impairment, diabetic
nephropathy, poor glycemic control, and
cigarette smoking. Some studies have shown
that foot ulceration is more common in men
with diabetes than in women [14,16].
Page 2 of 15 Diabetes Ther (2012) 3:4
Social factors, such as low socioeconomic status,
poor access to healthcare services, and poor
education are also proven to be related to more
frequent foot ulceration [14,16].
Physical examination of the diabetic foot is
based on assessment of the skin and of the
vascular, neurological, and musculoskeletal
The dermatological examination includes a
visual inspection of the skin of the legs and feet,
particularly the dorsal, plantar, medial, lateral,
and posterior surfaces, as well as a close
examination of each toenail . Other
observations to be noted include the presence
of peeling skin and maceration or ﬁssuring of
the interdigital skin. The visual inspection may
discover signs of autonomic neuropathy and
sudomotor dysfunction .
People with diabetes are at high risk of
developing peripheral vascular disease;
therefore, the palpation of pulses bilaterally in
the dorsalis pedis, posterior tibial, popliteal, and
superﬁcial femoral arteries is necessary for
assessment of the blood circulation in the
lower limbs. Inadequate perfusion of a limb,
due to peripheral vascular disease, may crucially
affect the progress of the healing of an ulcer,
often resulting in chronic unhealed ulcers that
are susceptible to infection . A relatively
simple method to conﬁrm the clinical suspicion
of arterial occlusive disease is to measure the
resting systolic blood pressure in the ankles and
arms. This is performed by measuring the
systolic blood pressure (using a Doppler probe)
in the brachial, posterior tibial, and dorsalis
pedis arteries . The highest of the four
measurements in the ankles and feet is divided
by the higher of the two brachial
measurements. This ratio is referred to as the
ankle–brachial index (ABI). Normal ABI values
range from 1.0 to 1.3, since the pressure is
higher in the ankle than in the arm. Values over
1.3 suggest a noncompressible calciﬁed vessel.
An ABI of less than 0.9 is indicative of
peripheral vascular disease and is associated
with 50% or more stenosis in one or more
major vessels. An ABI of 0.4–0.9 suggests a
degree of arterial obstruction associated with
claudication. An ABI of less than 0.4 or an ankle
systolic pressure of less than 50 mmHg
represents advanced ischemia . The ABI
correlates with clinical measures of lower
extremity function, such as walking distance,
velocity, balance, and overall physical activity.
In addition, a low ABI has been associated with
a higher risk of coronary heart disease, stroke,
transient ischemic attack, progressive renal
insufﬁciency, and all-cause mortality . A
potential limitation of the ABI is that calciﬁed
vessels may not compress normally, possibly
resulting in falsely elevated Doppler signals.
Thus, an ABI of over 1.3 is suggestive of calciﬁed
vessels. In such patients, an accurate pressure
may be obtained by measuring the blood
pressure in the toe and calculating the toe–
brachial index . If ABIs are normal at rest
but symptoms strongly suggest claudication,
ABIs and segmental pressures should be
obtained before and after exercise on
a treadmill. This may unmask a
hemodynamically signiﬁcant stenosis that is
subclinical at rest but signiﬁcant on exertion.
The physician should also assess skin
temperature with the back of the hand.
Normal skin temperature ranges from warm at
the tibia to cool at the distal toes . Foot-skin
temperature can be measured with a handheld
infrared thermometer on the plantar aspect of
the foot at the level of the ﬁrst metatarsal head.
Diabetes Ther (2012) 3:4 Page 3 of 15
Elevated temperature is reported to be
associated with sudomotor dysfunction and a
higher risk for foot ulceration [21,22].
The presence of diabetic neuropathy can be
established from an abbreviated medical history
and physical examination. Symptoms such as a
burning sensation; pins and needles; shooting,
sharp, or stabbing pains; and muscle cramps,
which are distributed symmetrically in both
limbs (‘‘stocking and glove distribution’’), and
often worse at night, are usually present in
peripheral neuropathy. Diabetic peripheral
neuropathy may also be evaluated using the
Neuropathy Symptom Score (NSS), which is a
validated symptom score with a high predictive
value to screen for peripheral neuropathy in
diabetes [23,24] (Table 1).
The physical examination of the foot assesses
the perception of superﬁcial pain (pinprick),
temperature sensation (using a two-metal rod),
light sensation (using the edge of a cotton-wool
twist), and pressure (using the Semmes–
Weinstein 5.07 monoﬁlament). Additionally,
the physician should examine the vibration
perception using a tuning fork and/or a
biothesiometer. The examination of position
sense (proprioception) and deep tendon reﬂexes
(Achilles tendon, patellar) is also essential .
Neuropathic deﬁcits in the feet can be
determined using the Neuropathy Disability
Score (NDS), which is derived from the
inability to detect pinprick sensation (using a
neurological examination pin), vibration (using
a 128-Hz tuning fork), or differences in
temperature sensation (using warm and cool
rods), and loss or reduction of the Achilles reﬂex
(using a tendon hammer)  (Table 1).
According to the American Diabetes
Association, a foot that has lost its protective
sensation is considered to be a ‘‘foot at risk’’
for ulceration. The diagnosis of a foot at
risk is conﬁrmed by a positive
Table 1 Neuropathy Symptom Score (NSS) and
Neuropathy Disability Score (NDS)
Daytime only 0
Day and night 1
Have the symptoms ever woken the patient from
Could any maneuver reduce the symptoms?
Sitting or lying 0
Page 4 of 15 Diabetes Ther (2012) 3:4
5.07/10-g monoﬁlament test, plus one of the
following tests: vibration test (using 128-Hz
tuning fork or a biothesiometer), pinprick
sensation, or ankle reﬂexes .
The above tests have been reported to have a
positive predictive value of 46% and a negative
predictive value of 87% for the risk of incident
Diabetic foot ulcers are deﬁned as:
neuropathic in the presence of peripheral
diabetic neuropathy and absence of ischemia;
ischemic if the patient presents peripheral artery
disease but no diabetic peripheral neuropathy;
and neuroischemic if neuropathy and ischemia
coexist. Apart from this rather crude
classiﬁcation, many efforts have been made to
categorize foot ulcers according to extent, size
and depth, location, presence of infection, and
ischemia. The Meggitt–Wagner classiﬁcation is
one of the most popular validated classiﬁcations
for the foot ulcers (Table 2). Other classiﬁcation
systems for diabetic foot ulcers have also been
proposed and validated .
Whatever method is used for the diabetic foot
ulcer evaluation, all classiﬁcation systems should
aim at facilitating the correct choice of treatment
and reliable monitoring of the healing progress
of the ulcer, while at the same time serving as a
communication tool across specialties.
Table 2 Meggitt–Wagner classiﬁcation of foot ulcers
Grade Description of the ulcer
0 Pre- or postulcerative lesion completely
1 Superﬁcial, full-thickness ulcer limited to the
dermis, not extending to the subcutis
2 Ulcer of the skin extending through the subcutis
with exposed tendon or bone and without
osteomyelitis or abscess formation
3 Deep ulcers with osteomyelitis or abscess
4 Localized gangrene of the toes or the forefoot
5 Foot with extensive gangrene
Table 1 continued
Dorsal foot area
Peripheral neuropathy is present if there are moderate signs
(NDS[6) with or without symptoms (any NSS), or mild
signs (NDS 3–5) with moderate symptoms (NSS[5)
3–4: mild symptoms 3–5: mild neuropathic signs
5–6: moderate symptoms 6–8: moderate
7–9: severe 9–10: severe
Diabetes Ther (2012) 3:4 Page 5 of 15
The gold standard for diabetic foot ulcer
treatment includes debridement of the wound,
management of any infection, revascularization
procedures when indicated, and off-loading of
the ulcer . Other methods have also been
suggested to be beneﬁcial as add-on therapies,
such as hyperbaric oxygen therapy, use of
advanced wound care products, and negative-
pressure wound therapy (NPWT) . However,
data so far have not provided adequate evidence
of the efﬁcacy and cost-effectiveness of these
add-on treatment methods.
Debridement should be carried out in all chronic
wounds to remove surface debris and necrotic
tissues. It improves healing by promoting the
production of granulation tissue and can be
achieved surgically, enzymatically, biologically,
and through autolysis.
Surgical debridement, known also as the
‘‘sharp method,’’ is performed by scalpels,
and is rapid and effective in removing
hyperkeratosis and dead tissue. Particular care
should be taken to protect healthy tissue, which
has a red or deep pink (granulation tissue)
appearance . Using a scalpel blade with the
tip pointed at a 45angle, all nonviable tissue
must be removed until a healthy bleeding ulcer
bed is produced with saucerization of the
wound edges. If severe ischemia is suspected,
aggressive debridement should be postponed
until a vascular examination has been carried
out and, if necessary, a revascularization
Enzymatic debridement can be achieved
using a variety of enzymatic agents, including
crab-derived collagenase, collagen from krill,
papain, a combination of streptokinase and
streptodornase, and dextrans. These are able to
remove necrotic tissue without damaging the
healthy tissue. Although expensive, enzymatic
debridement is indicated for ischemic ulcers
because surgical debridement is extremely
painful in these cases .
Biological debridement has been applied
recently using sterile maggots. Maggots have
the ability to digest surface debris, bacteria, and
necrotic tissues only, leaving healthy tissue
intact. Recent reports suggest that this method
is also effective in the elimination of drug-
resistant pathogens, such as methicillin-
resistant Staphylococcus aureus, from wound
Autolytic debridement involves the use of
dressings that create a moist wound
environment so that host defense mechanisms
(neutrophils, macrophages) can clear
devitalized tissue using the body’s enzymes.
Autolysis is enhanced by the use of proper
dressings, such as hydrocolloids, hydrogels, and
ﬁlms. Autolysis is highly selective, avoiding
damage to the surrounding skin .
In conclusion, debridement, especially the
‘‘sharp method,’’ is one of the gold standards in
wound healing management, signiﬁcantly
contributing to the healing process of the
wound, including the diabetic ulcer [34,35].
Off-loading of the ulcer area is extremely
important for the healing of plantar ulcers.
Retrospective and prospective studies have
shown that elevated plantar pressures
signiﬁcantly contribute to the development of
plantar ulcers in diabetic patients [36–38]. In
addition, any existing foot deformities may
increase the possibility of ulceration, especially
in the presence of diabetic peripheral
neuropathy and inadequate off-loading.
Page 6 of 15 Diabetes Ther (2012) 3:4
Furthermore, inadequate off-loading of the
ulcer has been proven to be a signiﬁcant
reason for the delay of ulcer healing even in
an adequately perfused limb . The value of
ulcer off-loading is increasing, as it has been
reported that the risk of recurrence of a healed
foot ulcer is high if the foot is not properly off-
loaded (in the high-pressure areas), even after
closure of the ulcer .
The most effective method of off-loading,
which is also considered to be the gold
standard, is the nonremovable total-contact
cast (TCC). It is made of plaster or fast-setting
ﬁberglass cast materials, has relatively low costs,
and permits restricted activity .
Nonremovable TCCs are indicated for the
effective off-loading of ulcers located at the
forefoot or midfoot. Severe foot ischemia, a
deep abscess, osteomyelitis, and poor skin
quality are absolute contraindications to the
use of a nonremovable TCC. Nonremovable
TCCs work by distributing the plantar pressures
from the forefoot and midfoot to the heel. They
allow complete rest of the foot whilst also
permitting restricted activity. Nonremovable
TCCs also reduce edema, and compliance with
treatment is necessarily high .
There are a number of removable cast
walkers (RCW), which usually have a
lightweight, semirigid shell that helps support
the limb whilst also providing full-cell
protection (Fig. 1). The sole is of a rocker type,
offering off-loading of the forefoot during
standing and walking. The foot base is wide
and there is enough room for dressings. In some
RCWs, overlapping air cells provide
intermittent pneumatic compression for
edema reduction. In other RCWs, there are
additional layers of foam or other soft material,
offering total contact .
A modiﬁcation of RCWs is an instant total-
contact cast (ITCC), where there is a wrapping
layer of cohesive tape or plaster bandage around
the RCW . The aim of the ITCC is to
combine the efﬁcacy of a TCC with the easy
application of a RCW.
Half shoes are another solution for patients
who cannot tolerate other methods of off-
loading, although they provide less pressure
relief than a cast boot and are difﬁcult to walk
in. Therapeutic shoes, custom insoles, and the
use of felted foam (Fig. 2) are alternative
methods to off-load wounds located on the
forefoot, and can reduce pressure at the site of
ulceration by 4–50% .
Ulcers heal more quickly and are often less
complicated by infection when in a moist
environment. The only exception is
Fig. 1 Removable cast walker
Diabetes Ther (2012) 3:4 Page 7 of 15
dry gangrene, where the necrotic area should be
kept dry in order to avoid infection and
conversion to wet gangrene. A wound’s
exudate is rich in cytokines, platelets, white
blood cells, growth factors, matrix
metalloproteinases (MMPs), and other
enzymes. Most of these factors promote
healing via ﬁbroblast and keratinocyte
proliferation and angiogenesis, while others,
such as leukocytes and toxins produced by
bacteria, inhibit the healing process. Moreover,
it has been reported that local concentrations of
growth factors [platelet-derived growth factor-
beta (PDGF-beta), transforming growth factor-
beta] are low in patients with chronic ulcers
. The ideal dressing should be free from
contaminants, be able to remove excess
exudates and toxic components, maintain a
moist environment at the wound-dressing
interface, be impermeable to microorganisms,
allow gaseous exchange, and, ﬁnally, should be
easily removed and cost-effective . Various
dressings are available that are intended to
prevent infection and enhance wound healing,
and several studies support their effectiveness
for this purpose [46,47]. However, most of
these studies were performed in wounds and
not in diabetic ulcers [44,46,47]. Available data
on their use in diabetes are scarce , and
therefore further randomized clinical trials are
needed to support the existing evidence for
their beneﬁt in diabetic ulcers.
PDGF-beta (becaplermin; available as
; Ortho-McNeil Pharmaceutical, Inc.,
Titusville, NJ, USA; and Janssen-Cilag
International NV, Beerse, Belgium) has been
developed as a topical therapy for the treatment
of noninfected diabetic foot ulcers. It is applied
in the form of a once-daily gel along with
debridement on a weekly basis . Initial
studies have indicated a signiﬁcant positive
effect of becaplermin [49,50] on ulcer healing;
however, more recent studies have reported an
increased incidence of cancer in patients treated
with becaplermin, especially at high doses .
Consequently, the US Food and Drug
Administration has published a warning of an
increased risk of cancer if more than three tubes
of becaplermin are used . Further studies are
necessary in order to explore the beneﬁt-to-risk
ratio, as well as the cost effectiveness of this
Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) is an autologous
product, extracted from the patient’s plasma,
which includes a high platelet concentration in
Fig. 2 Off-loading of a diabetic foot ulcer with felted
Page 8 of 15 Diabetes Ther (2012) 3:4
a ﬁbrin clot that can be easily applied to the
ulcer area. The ﬁbrin clot is absorbed during
wound healing within days to weeks following
its application . There are a few studies
reporting a shorter closure time and higher
healing percentage in patients using PRP and
platelet-derived products [53,54]. However,
further studies are required to support the
possible beneﬁcial effect of this method in
The results of the subcutaneous
administration of granulocyte colony-
stimulating factor (GCFS) in patients with
infected foot ulcers vary, with some studies
indicating faster resolution of the infection and
faster healing [55,56], while others did not
report any signiﬁcant difference [57,58]. Basic
ﬁbroblast growth factor (bFGF) is known to be
beneﬁcial in the formation of granulation tissue
and normal healing ; however, one small
study failed to prove any signiﬁcant difference
between the intervention and the control group
. Epidermal growth factor (EGF) acts on
epithelial cells, ﬁbroblasts, and smooth muscle
cells to promote healing . Evidence for the
use of EGF in diabetic ulcers is limited, with
only a small amount of data reporting a
signiﬁcantly higher rate of ulcer healing with
EGF use compared with placebo .
Bioengineered Skin Substitutes
Tissue-engineered skin substitutes are classiﬁed
into allogenic cell-containing (Apligraf
Graftskin, Organogenesis Inc., Canton, MA,
, Advanced Biohealing
Westport, CT, USA; OrCell
International Inc., New York, NY, USA),
autologous cell-containing (Hyalograft
Fidia Advanced BioPolymers, Abano Terme,
, Fidia Advanced BioPolymers,
Abano Terme, Italy; TranCell
, CellTran Ltd.,
Shefﬁeld, UK), and acellular (OASIS
Biotech, West Lafayette, IN, USA;
, Wright Medical Group Inc.,
Arlington, TN, USA; AlloDerm
Corporation, Branchburg, NJ, USA) matrices.
The ﬁrst two types of matrix contain living cells,
such as keratinocytes or ﬁbroblasts, in a matrix,
while acellular matrices are free of cells and act
by releasing growth factors to stimulate
neovascularization and wound healing.
Accumulating evidence shows that
bioengineered skin substitutes may be a
promising therapeutic adjunct therapy to the
standard wound care for the management of
noninfected diabetic foot ulcers. Nevertheless,
more studies need to be conducted in the future
in order to conﬁrm these results [63–69].
Extracellular Matrix Proteins
(Fidia Farmaceutici, Abano Terme, Italy)
is a semisynthetic ester of hyaluronic acid
which facilitates the growth and movement of
ﬁbroblasts, and controls hydration .
Other available products contain lyophilized
collagen from various sources (bovine, porcine),
alone or in combination with alginates,
, Johnson & Johnson,
New Brunswick, NJ, USA), or antibiotics.
Collagen seems to induce the production of
endogenous collagen and to promote platelet
adhesion and aggregation. It has been reported
to be safe and effective as an adjunctive therapy
in the management of foot ulceration; however,
evidence is still limited .
Matrix metalloproteinases regulate the
extracellular matrix components. During
normal wound healing, there is a balance
between the construction and the destruction
Diabetes Ther (2012) 3:4 Page 9 of 15
of the extracellular matrix. In chronic wounds,
a high expression of MMP-2 in ﬁbroblasts and
the endothelium is detected and is believed to
favor destruction. Thus, downregulation of
MMP-2 expression may enhance the healing
(Tyco Healthcare Group Lp, North
Haven, CT, USA) is a dressing containing metal
ions and citric acid, and its topical application is
associated with a lower expression of MMP-2 by
ﬁbroblasts and endothelial cells. Metal ions
inhibit the production of reactive oxygen
species by polymorphonuclear cells, and citric
acid acts as a scavenger of superoxide anions
. One pilot study provided encouraging
results . Certainly, randomized trials are
necessary in order to establish the role of
DerMax in the treatment of diabetic ulcers.
Negative-Pressure Wound Therapy
Negative-pressure wound therapy (NPWT) has
emerged as a new treatment for diabetic foot
ulcers. It involves the use of intermittent or
continuous subatmospheric pressure through a
special pump (vacuum-assisted closure)
connected to a resilient open-celled foam
surface dressing covered with an adhesive
drape to maintain a closed environment. The
pump is connected to a canister to collect
wound discharge and exudate. Experimental
data suggest that NPWT optimizes blood ﬂow,
decreases tissue edema, and removes exudate,
proinﬂammatory cytokines, and bacteria from
the wound area . It should be performed
after debridement and continued until the
formation of healthy granulation tissue at the
surface of the ulcer. Currently, NPWT is
indicated for complex diabetic foot wounds
; however, it is contraindicated for patients
with an active bleeding ulcer. Two small studies
[75,76] and one larger study  provide some
encouraging data concerning the possible
beneﬁt of NPWT in the healing rate and time
of diabetic foot ulcers. However, more
randomized trials are needed in order to
conﬁrm these results.
There is strong evidence that ﬁbroblasts,
endothelial cells, and keratinocytes are
replicated at higher rates in an oxygen-rich
environment [78,79]. Moreover, leukocytes kill
bacteria more effectively when supplied by
oxygen. It is also known that ﬁbroblasts from
diabetic individuals show diminished cell
turnover in comparison with those from
nondiabetic persons. Based on these data, the
idea was that the administration of oxygen at
high concentrations might accelerate wound
healing in diabetes . Treatment with
hyperbaric oxygen therapy involves the
intermittent administration of 100% oxygen at
a pressure greater than that at sea level. It is
performed in a chamber with the patient
breathing 100% oxygen intermittently while
the atmospheric pressure is increased to
2–3 atmospheres for a duration of 1–2 h. A full
course involves 30–40 sessions. A small amount
of data suggests signiﬁcant reduction of the
ulcer area  as well as reduction of the risk for
major amputation . Hyperbaric oxygen can
be applied as an adjunctive therapy for patients
with severe soft-tissue foot infections and
osteomyelitis who have not responded to
conventional treatment. Adverse effects
include barotrauma to the ears and sinuses,
pneumothorax, transient changes in visual
acuity, and seizures . Furthermore, a recent
systematic review by the National Institute for
Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE)
Guidelines Development Group in the UK
concluded that the available data are
Page 10 of 15 Diabetes Ther (2012) 3:4
insufﬁcient to demonstrate that hyperbaric
oxygen therapy is cost-effective .
The management of diabetic foot ulcers remains
a major therapeutic challenge which implies an
urgent need to review strategies and treatments
in order to achieve the goals and reduce the
burden of care in an efﬁcient and cost-effective
way. Questions remain as to which types of
intervention, technology, and dressing are
suitable to promote healing, and whether all
therapies are necessary and cost-effective as
adjunctive therapies. The International
Working Group on the Diabetic Foot has
conducted two systematic reviews [35,83]of
the evidence and effectiveness of interventions
to enhance the healing of chronic diabetic foot
ulcers. The preliminary results are promising,
but large randomized controlled trials are
necessary in order to establish the cost-
effectiveness of the new therapies.
Prevention of diabetic foot ulceration is
critical in order to reduce the associated high
morbidity and mortality rates, and the danger
of amputation. It is essential to identify the
‘‘foot at risk,’’ through careful inspection and
physical examination of the foot followed by
neuropathy and vascular tests.
Regular foot examination, patient education,
simple hygienic practices, provision of
appropriate footwear, and prompt treatment of
minor injuries can decrease ulcer occurrence by
50% and eliminate the need for major
amputation in nonischemic limbs [84,85].
Diabetic foot ulcers should be carefully
evaluated and the gold-standard treatments
should be strictly applied in order to prevent
amputation. Further clinical studies are needed
to support the existing evidence regarding the
clinical beneﬁt of new approaches for the
treatment of diabetic ulcers, and these
approaches should be used only as add-on
therapies to the gold-standard wound care.
Dr. Doupis is the guarantor for this article, and
takes full responsibility for the integrity of the
work as a whole.
Conﬂict of interest. The authors declare that
they have no conﬂicts of interest.
Open Access. This article is distributed under
the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution
Noncommercial License which permits
any noncommercial use, distribution, and
reproduction in any medium, provided the
original author(s) and source are credited.
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