Three Things Every Doctor and Nurse Needs To Check to Prevent Amputation in #Diabetes

This terrific meta analysis by Crawford and coworkers boils much of the work over the last generation into three simple things to assess:

  1. Loss of protective sensation (test with 10g monofilament or Ipswich Touch Test or something more specific)
  2. Absence of a pulse (this stresses the importance of identifying the presence of peripheral artery disease.
  3. Prior history of previous complication (The Diabetic Foot in Remission).

Sound familiar? Each of these plays a central role in the very simple Three Minute Foot Exam. Now get to it!


Crawford, F., Cezard, G., Chappell, F.M. et al., 2015. A systematic review and individual patient data meta-analysis of prognostic factors for foot ulceration in people with diabetes: the international research collaboration for the prediction of diabetic foot ulcerations (PODUS). Health technology assessment (Winchester, England), 19(57): 1-210

BACKGROUND: Annual foot risk assessment of people with diabetes is recommended in national and international clinical guidelines. At present, these are consensus based and use only a proportion of the available evidence. OBJECTIVES: We undertook a systematic review of individual patient data (IPD) to identify the most highly prognostic factors for foot ulceration (i.e. symptoms, signs, diagnostic tests) in people with diabetes. DATA SOURCES: Studies were identified from searches of MEDLINE and EMBASE. REVIEW METHODS: The electronic search strategies for MEDLINE and EMBASE databases created during an aggregate systematic review of predictive factors for foot ulceration in diabetes were updated and rerun to January 2013. One reviewer applied the IPD review eligibility criteria to the full-text articles of the studies identified in our literature search and also to all studies excluded from our aggregate systematic review to ensure that we did not miss eligible IPD. A second reviewer applied the eligibility criteria to a 10% random sample of the abstract search yield to check that no relevant material was missed. This review includes exposure variables (risk factors) only from individuals who were free of foot ulceration at the time of study entry and who had a diagnosis of diabetes mellitus (either type 1 or type 2). The outcome variable was incident ulceration. RESULTS: Our search identified 16 cohort studies and we obtained anonymised IPD for 10. These data were collected from more than 16,000 people with diabetes worldwide and reanalysed by us. One data set was kept for independent validation. The data sets contributing IPD covered a range of temporal, geographical and clinical settings. We therefore selected random-effects meta-analysis, which assumes not that all the estimates from each study are estimates of the same underlying true value, but rather that the estimates belong to the same distribution. We selected candidate variables for meta-analysis using specific criteria. After univariate meta-analyses, the most clinically important predictors were identified by an international steering committee for inclusion in the primary, multivariable meta-analysis. Age, sex, duration of diabetes, monofilaments and pulses were considered most prognostically important. Meta-analyses based on data from the entire IPD population found that an inability to feel a 10-g monofilament [odds ratio (OR) 3.184, 95% confidence interval (CI) 2.654 to 3.82], at least one absent pedal pulse (OR 1.968, 95% CI 1.624 to 2.386), a longer duration of a diagnosis of diabetes (OR 1.024, 95% CI 1.011 to 1.036) and a previous history of ulceration (OR 6.589, 95% CI 2.488 to 17.45) were all predictive of risk. Female sex was protective (OR 0.743, 95% CI 0.598 to 0.922). LIMITATIONS: It was not possible to perform a meta-analysis using a one-step approach because we were unable to procure copies of one of the data sets and instead accessed data via Safe Haven. CONCLUSIONS: The findings from this review identify risk assessment procedures that can reliably inform national and international diabetes clinical guideline foot risk assessment procedures. The evidence from a large sample of patients in worldwide settings show that the use of a 10-g monofilament or one absent pedal pulse will identify those at moderate or intermediate risk of foot ulceration, and a history of foot ulcers or lower-extremity amputation is sufficient to identify those at high risk. We propose the development of a clinical prediction rule (CPR) from our existing model using the following predictor variables: insensitivity to a 10-g monofilament, absent pedal pulses and a history of ulceration or lower-extremities amputations.

This CPR could replace the many tests, signs and symptoms that patients currently have measured using equipment that is either costly or difficult to use.


David G. Armstrong

Dedicated to amputation prevention, wound healing, diabetic foot, biotechnology and the intersection between medical devices and consumer electronics.