Making the equivocal unequivocal: standardization of clean margins in diabetic foot osteomyelitis

This from Brian Schmidt and Christine Jarocki of University of Michigan


The prevalence of diabetes mellitus continues to rise. Diabetic foot ulcers with osteomyelitis are a diabetes-related complication presenting a significant burden to this cohort. A cure to diabetic foot osteomyelitis remains elusive and standard of care has failed to improve outcomes. To advance research and better patient outcomes, the authors offer specific guidance with terminology to enhance operative dictations which may improve surgical practice and guide treatment.


A consecutive review of podiatric surgical dictations for inpatient diabetic foot osteomyelitis within a tertiary care facility was performed. Surgical descriptors of bone were standardized: density, anatomic structure, vascular thrombosis, color, and draining sinus. Correlations between the five categories and histopathological results were performed after kappa analysis for interrater reliability was performed.


Kappa coefficient demonstrated high inter-reliability of surgical findings. This suggests potential agreement amongst surgeons performing similar procedures. It was also found that specific bone descriptors had moderate to strong correlation with clean histopathologic bone margins when biopsied. This further suggests that the use of standardized terms may help guide definitive therapy.


The authors suggest a standardized approach which includes consistent descriptors of intraoperative bone. With use of standardized terms, vague and blanket descriptors are eliminated. This has potential to improve understanding of changes within bone as a result of infection and diabetes. Early and improved communication of intraoperative findings will enhance the multidisciplinary approach. This could potentially lead to changes in diabetic foot management and may limit hospital waste waiting for final cultures and pathology reports.

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