The pressures and loads under the feet during walking have been compared in three groups of 41 patients each, using a microprocessor-controlled optical system. Group A consisted of patients with diabetic neuropathy, group B of non-neuropathic diabetic patients, and group C of nondiabetic controls. Thirteen patients in group A had a history of neuropathic foot ulceration. Other investigations in the diabetic patients included motor conduction velocity (MCV) in the median and peroneal nerves, vibration perception threshold (VPT) in the great toes, the valsalva response (VR), skin resistance (SR), and the ankle pressure index (API). Fifty-one percent of neuropathic feet had abnormally high pressures underneath the metatarsal heads compared with 17% of the diabetic controls and 7% of nondiabetic subjects. All those feet with previous ulceration had abnormally high pressures at the ulcer sites. Of the other investigations, the VPT correlated most significantly with the presence of foot ulceration. In addition, a low median and peroneal nerve MCV, an abnormal VR, a high API, and the absence of sweating all correlated with the presence of foot ulceration. We therefore conclude that simple bedside investigations, such as measurement of the VPT alone, may be useful in identifying those patients at risk of foot ulceration. Foot pressure studies may then be used in such patients as a predictive and management aid by determining specific areas under the foot that are prone to ulceration.
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