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Management of type 2 diabetes: A handbook for general practice
Last revised: 17 Sep 2020
Grade: C, level 3
Grade: D, consensus
Grade: Grade A, level 1
Grade: A, level 1
Foot ulceration and limb amputation are among the major drivers of disability and healthcare costs in people with diabetes. Foot ulceration is a leading cause of hospitalisation for people with diabetes,1 and in 2012–13, 3570 people with diabetes had a lower limb amputation in Australia.3
A foot protection program that includes prevention, patient education, multidisciplinary care, and close monitoring and treatment of foot ulcers can substantially reduce amputation rates.
Foot care education should be provided to all people with diabetes to assist with prevention of foot complications.
Regular podiatric review should be considered.
A careful foot assessment should be performed to stratify the risk of developing foot complications. Stratification is dependent on four risk factors:1
The following factors might also increase the risk of foot complications:1
Table 1 shows risk stratification and corresponding foot care. People at intermediate and high risk should be assessed by a diabetic high-risk foot service. The intensity of monitoring and review increases according to the level of risk.
Refer to the section ‘Microvascular complications – Diabetes-related neuropathy’ for practice-based tools for assessing circulation and foot deformity.
Indications for immediate referral to a multidisciplinary foot care clinic include active foot disease:
Any patients presenting with acute limb ischaemia should be referred immediately to an emergency department.
Patients with chronic, limb-threatening ischaemia require urgent referral to a vascular specialist.
A foot ulcer is a serious condition and needs to be managed immediately.
Several wound classifications have been developed to provide objective assessment of severity of foot ulcers.
If arterial insufficiency is suspected, assessment and management of the peripheral vasculature is mandatory before debridement.
Referral to a vascular surgeon, high-risk foot clinic and/or multidisciplinary team is suggested in this situation.
Patient ability to understand and undertake management should always be a factor in choosing a treatment and in counselling the patient regarding the treatment plan.
Local sharp debridement of non-ischaemic wounds improves healing. Other methods of debridement that might be appropriate in certain cases include larval therapy, hydrosurgical debridement and autolytic debridement.6
The priority of debriding wound tissue is to prepare the surface and edges of a wound to facilitate healing. Debridement also reduces pressure on the wound, allows for full inspection of tissue underneath the debrided tissue and helps drain secretions or pus.6
Currently, there is insufficient evidence to demonstrate the superiority of any one type of wound dressing over another in the management of ulcers. Dressings should therefore be tailored to the specific characteristics of the wound.
A full list of considerations for dressing choice can be found on page 15 of Wounds International’s Best practice guidelines: Wound management in diabetic foot ulcers.
Ongoing weight bearing on an insensate foot causes continued trauma and results in poor wound healing.
Pressure on the wound should be off-loaded, using padding or other off-loading devices such as total-contact casts and removable prefabricated devices (eg controlled ankle-movement walkers, half-shoes, therapeutic shoes).
Ulcers are often caused by patients’ footwear; if this is the case, advise the patient not to continue wearing the same shoes.
Guidelines on footwear for people with diabetes can be found in an article by van Netten et al.
The need for antibiotics should be determined on clinical grounds.
It is appropriate for cultures to be collected for identification of microbiological organisms and antibiotic sensitivities. The most appropriate tissue samples for microbiological evaluation are either deep tissue swabs after debridement or tissue/bone biopsies.
There is no need to culture clinically uninfected ulcers, as colonising organisms will always be detected.
Infected ulcers should be treated with antimicrobial therapy according to published antibiotic guidelines.
The duration of therapy may need to be for extended periods.
Diabetic Foot Australia has resources for health professionals and people with diabetes.
Wounds International’s guidelines for management of diabetic foot ulcers provide detailed and practical information.
Did you know you can now log your CPD with a click of a button?
Type 2 diabetes: Goals for optimum management (PDF 0.04 MB)
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