Save Those Feet!

Diabetic foot infection more effectively diagnosed with SPECT/CT imaging

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) People with diabetes have to keep track of many aspects of their health, including foot infections caused by damaged nerves and not enough blood flow. Often, diabetics have to get an infected foot or leg amputated.

However, recent research shows that a certain screening method may lower the number of diabetics getting amputations.

An imaging tool called SPECT/CT can effectively spot infections in people with diabetes. The special CT scan could reduce the number of diabetics getting unnecessary foot amputations.

"A special x-ray could reduce the number of diabetics foot amputations."

Diabetes causes many health problems. However, bone and tissue infections of the feet are the most common reason for diabetics to be admitted to a hospital.

For their study, Sherif Heiba, M.D., from Mount Sinai School of Medicine, and colleagues scanned 191 diabetic patients. They found 84 cases of infected bone, 93 cases of infected soft tissue, 25 cases of both infected bone and soft tissue, and 25 other diagnoses. They confirmed all of these cases through tissue samples and follow-up examinations.

The SPECT/CT - which stands for single photon emission computed tomography and computed tomography - only missed five cases of infection. It also found one case of infection where there was not one.

Treatment for 94 percent of the infections was based on the imaging studies. In 96 percent of the cases, treatment of the infection did not require a full leg or foot amputation. In fact, 72 percent of the cases only needed the removal of the infected tissue and some antibiotics.

According to Heiba, this study shows that SPECT/CT is an important way for finding infection in diabetic patients who might otherwise get overly aggressive treatment like amputation.

Heiba says that doctors want to avoid amputation whenever possible, especially because amputation can heavily affect a patient's quality of life and survival.

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Review Date: 
June 7, 2011
Last Updated:
October 23, 2012