A one centimeter clean margin for osteomyelitis in the diabetic foot?

This intriguing work from Bernstein and coworkers suggests that a 1cm clean resection margin for osteomyelitis in the diabetic foot is optimal. What do you think? Here are the data comparing bone marrow edema with histologically diagnosed osteomyelitis.

Brent Bernstein, Melody StouderEmail author, Eric Bronfenbrenner, Steven Chen and David Anderson
Journal of Foot and Ankle Research201710:40


Due to the high incidence of forefoot ulcerations with associated osteomyelitis, there has been an increased demand for partial ray amputations. In order to ensure complete removal of infected metatarsal bone, a clean margin amount is chosen based on the surgeon’s intraoperative visual subjective evaluation. The margin is resected and sent to pathology. Currently the literature shows positive proximal margin rates of 35–40%. The purpose of this study was to reduce the rate of positive proximal margins by effectively resecting all infected bone using pre-operative MRI measurements with an added resection margin.

Twenty-four osteomyelitis positive metatarsals were included in this exploratory study. The distance of proximal osteomyelitic extension within the metatarsal was measured on MRI in centimeters. Intra-operatively, the partial ray amputation cut was determined by adding an extra 0.5 cm resection margin to the MRI measurement. At the study’s mid-point, bone histopathology revealed an increase in positive proximal margin rates-so the resection margin was increased to 1 cm. Descriptive outcomes included the mean distance of osteomyelitis propagation, proximal margin rates, as well as diagnostic statistics.

After removing the specimens with false positive MRI results, the study sample included 21 metatarsals positive for osteomyelitis. A 0.5 cm resection margin proximal to the osteomyelitis resulted in a 50% positive proximal margin rate. After increasing the resection margin to 1 cm, there was found to be an improved positive proximal margin rate of 9%. Based on MRI findings, the mean distance + standard deviation of osteomyelitis propagation along the metatarsal proximally was 1.81 cm + 0.74 cm. The metatarsal specimen was processed by pathology into multiple pieces and compared to MRI, resulting in MRI sensitivity of 67%, specificity of 74%, positive predictive value of 79%, and negative predictive value of 60%.

By performing a 1 cm resection margin proximal to the metatarsal osteomyelitis the proximal margin rate was reduced to clinically meaningful levels. These preliminary findings support using a 1 cm resection margin when performing any form of metatarsal amputation, to reduce the risk of residual osteomyelitis post-operatively.


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