Background: There is a lack of high quality evidence to guide the optimal management of diabetes-related foot infection, particularly in severe cases of diabetes-related foot infection and diabetes-related foot osteomyelitis. This study examined the opinions of surgeons about the best management of severe diabetes-related foot infection.
Methods: Vascular and orthopaedic surgeons in Australia and New Zealand were invited to complete an online survey via email. The survey included multi-choice and open-ended questions on clinical management of diabetes-related foot infection. Responses of vascular surgeons and orthopaedic surgeons were compared using non-parametric statistical tests. Open-text responses were examined using inductive content analysis.
Results: 29 vascular and 20 orthopaedic surgeons completed the survey. One-third (28.6%) used best-practice guidelines to assist in decisions about foot infection management. Areas for guideline improvement identified included more specific advice regarding the indications for available treatments, more information about the overall non-surgical patient management and advice on how management can be varied in regions with limited health service resource. The probe-to-bone test and magnetic resonance imaging were the preferred methods of diagnosing osteomyelitis. Approximately half (51.2%) of respondents indicated piperacillin combined with Tazobactam as the preferred antibiotic choice for empirical treatment of severe diabetes-related foot infection. Negative pressure wound therapy was the most common way of managing a wound following debridement. All vascular surgeons (100%) made revascularisation decisions based the severity of ischemia while most orthopaedic surgeons (66.7%) were likely to refer to vascular surgeons to make revascularisation decisions. Vascular surgeons preferred using wound swabs while orthopaedic surgeons favoured tissue or bone biopsies to determine the choice of antibiotic. Respondents perceived a moderate variation in management decisions between specialists and supported the need for further trials to test different management pathways.
Conclusions: Most vascular and orthopaedic surgeons do not use best-practice guidelines to assist in decisions about management of diabetes-related foot infection. Vascular and orthopaedic surgeons appear to have different preferences for wound sampling to determine choice of antibiotic. There is a need to advance available evidence supporting different treatments and the related guidelines for the surgical managing of diabetes-related foot infection.