Background: The purpose of this study was to determine the degree to which pressure on the plantar aspect of the forefoot is reduced following percutaneous lengthening of the Achilles tendon in diabetic patients who are at high risk for ulceration of the foot. Methods: Ten diabetic patients who had a history of neuropathic plantar ulceration of the forefoot were enrolled in a laboratory gait trial. A repeated-measures design and a computer analysis of force-plate data were used to examine dynamic pressures on the forefoot, with the patient walking barefoot, immediately before percutaneous lengthening of the Achilles tendon and at eight weeks afterward. Although the wound in each patient had healed at least one month before the operation, we considered the patients to be at high risk for ulceration because they had had an ulcer previously. Results: The mean peak pressure (and standard deviation) on the plantar aspect of the forefoot decreased significantly from 86 ± 9.4 newtons per square centimeter preoperatively to 63 ± 13.2 newtons per square centimeter at eight weeks postoperatively (p < 0.001). Commensurately, the mean dorsiflexion of the ankle joint increased significantly from 0 ± 3.1 degrees preoperatively to 9 ± 2.3 degrees at eight weeks postoperatively (p < 0.001). Conclusions: The results of this study suggest that peak pressures on the plantar aspect of the forefoot are significantly reduced following percutaneous lengthening of the Achilles tendon in diabetic patients who are at high risk for ulceration of the foot. We are unaware of any other reports in the medical literature that describe such findings. These data may lend support to studies that have indicated that this procedure should be used as an adjunctive therapeutic or prophylactic measure to reduce the risk of neuropathic ulceration.
†Department of Orthopaedics, The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, 7703 Floyd Curl Drive, San Antonio, Texas 78284-7776. The e-mail address for Dr. Armstrong is: email@example.com.