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Charcot Foot Treatment and Amputation Prevention

Amputation is a severe complication of Charcot foot that can occur in severe cases. However, recent data shows that amputation rates for diabetic foot issues have significantly improved. To decrease the risk of amputation, it is important for foot and ankle surgeons, podiatrists, and patients to implement various strategies in foot care. Professionals should also strive to minimize early surgical interventions for patients without ulcerations or deformities.

Charcot Foot: Brief Overview

Charcot foot is a condition that is common among diabetic patients. It causes the bones and joints in the foot to weaken, leading to pain, sores, and deformities. In the early stages of this  disease, the symptoms may not be very noticeable. However, as the condition progresses, patients may experience redness, swelling, warmth, and dislocated bones in the foot.

Doctors commonly diagnose Charcot foot through physical examinations, x-rays, MRIs, and other neuropathy-related tests. These professionals also use surgical and non-surgical options to treat this disease. 

While several authors state that Charcot foot can result in amputation, a 2010 report says that the disease poses minimal amputation risks. However, higher amputation risks result in an increased tendency for ulcer complications to multiply.

Charcot Foot Complications

Some complications patients with Charcot foot experience include:

  • Toe-curling.
  • Twisted ankles leading to foot instability.
  • Loss of foot shape; patients may experience the “rocker bottom” condition, which involves the depression of the foot arch below the heels and toes.
  • Bone pressing against shoes.This can limit blood flow to the foot, making it difficult for wounds and infections to heal. It is important for patients with Charcot foot to take steps to prevent this complication and seek treatment for any foot ulcers that occur.
  • Amputation is caused by multiple ulcerations and increased wound-healing difficulty.

Preventing The Development Of Charcot Foot 

A key component of Charcot foot amputation prevention includes preventing the disease from developing in the first place. Some tips for preventing Charcot foot development include:

  • Keeping blood sugar levels within acceptable limits, especially for diabetic patients, to minimize nerve damage.
  • Avoiding any form of trauma or injury to the feet as much as possible, especially for diabetic patients.
  • Avoiding exercises or physical activities that make diabetic patients more susceptible to foot trauma, such as soccer or kickball.
  • Routine self-examinations to detect early symptoms of the disease.
  • Preventing the misuse or excessive intake of alcohol or other substances.
  • Using relevant interventions or programs, such as rehabilitation, to eliminate substance abuse.
  • Running regular checkups in health facilities with qualified foot and ankle surgeons and podiatrists and adhering to their instructions.

Charcot Foot Treatment Options

Charcot foot surgery and other non-surgical options are the two key Charcot foot treatment options. To minimize amputation risks, professionals must explore non-surgical options before opting for surgery, especially in the early stage of the disease.

Non-Surgical Treatment Options

The primary non-surgical treatment for diabetic Charcot foot is offloading. This option helps to relieve pressure and weight off of the foot to prevent inflammation, condition worsening, and foot deformation.

Foot orthotics, casts, and braces are some essential elements that professionals incorporate into the non-surgical treatment for diabetic Charcot foot. Utilizing casts or removable cast walkers for up to 12 weeks can significantly improve the outcome of patients. 

Moreover, prescription orthopedic footwear, such as a Charcot Restraint Orthotic Walker also known as CROW, can relieve pressure points and prevent repeated injuries and ulcers. Patients must frequently visit doctors to assess the progress of the treatment.

Surgical Treatment Options

Charcot foot surgery is advisable for patients with severe ankle and foot deformities and a high risk of developing foot ulcers that can lead to amputation. Moreover, surgical procedures are ideal for patients that experience little to no improvements from non-surgical treatment options.

Some effective surgical procedures for Charcot foot treatment include:

  • Ankle fusion
  • Reconstructive osteotomy
  • Exostectomy

Ankle Fusion

In this procedure, surgeons utilize rods, screws, and metallic plates to lock the ankle joint and limit its motion. This procedure efficiently reduces ankle arthritis symptoms, such as pain, inflammation, and swelling, significantly improving the condition.

Reconstructive Osteotomy

This bone realignment surgery increases or decreases the foot or ankle bone lengths to alter its alignment and increase its joint support ability. Shortening involves cutting the bone, while lengthening comprises adding a bone wedge.


This surgical procedure involves the removal of the plantar prominences. Exostectomy is essential in Charcot foot treatment due to the ability of the plantar prominences to cause ulcers.

Tips for Charcot Foot Amputation Prevention

In addition to foot-sparing reconstructive procedures or minor amputations, some common tips for preventing Charcot foot amputation include:

  • Recognizing the underlying vascular insufficiency and implementing a prompt (endo)vascular intervention.
  • Restoring adequate perfusion to allow for efficient reconstructive procedures.
  • Leveraging Charcot foot deformity correction.

Bottom Line

Charcot foot is a common condition in diabetic patients that can lead to foot amputation in a worst-case scenario. However, these patients can prevent this by preventing Charcot foot development through regular foot self-assessments, trauma-causing activity prevention, blood sugar level reductions, and routine checkups. Professionals can leverage surgical and non-surgical treatment options and incorporate several strategies, such as vascular insufficiency treatment and Charcot foot deformity correction, into patient care to prevent foot amputation.

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