Charcot neuropathic osteoarthropathy is commonly known as ‘Charcot foot’. It is a serious foot complication of diabetes mellitus that can frequently lead to foot ulceration, gangrene, hospital admission and foot amputation. A multidisciplinary approach to the management of Charcot foot is taken involving medical and allied health professionals. The management approach may also differ between different countries. To date, there is no systematic review of the literature undertaken to identify the clinical effectiveness of non-operative interventions in the treatment of acute Charcot foot.
The objective of this review was to identify the effectiveness of non-surgical interventions with reducing lesions, ulceration, the rate of surgical intervention, reducing hospital admissions and improve the quality of life of subjects with Charcot foot.
A comprehensive search strategy was undertaken on databases available from University of South Australia from their inception to November 2006.
Randomised controlled trials or clinical controlled trials were primarily sought. Critical appraisal of study quality and data extraction was undertaken using Joanna Briggs Institute instruments. Review Manager software was used to calculate comparative statistics.
This review identified 11 trials and five trials were included in the review. Three trials involved the use of bisphosphonate, a pharmacological agent. Two experimental treatments were also included, evaluating palliative radiology and magnetic fields. No trials were found using immobilisation and off-loading interventions for acute Charcot foot. The overall methodological quality score of the five studies was moderate. Owing to heterogeneous data, meta-analysis could not be performed.
The trials did not report on reducing lesions, ulceration, rate of surgical intervention, hospital admissions and the quality of life of subjects with Charcot foot.
The trials evaluating bisphosphonates reported greater reduction in foot temperature and disease activity for intervention subjects compared with controls. Another outcome of this review indicated additional beneficial effects of bisphosphonates in reducing pain and discomfort. The trial evaluating palliative radiotherapy found no difference between groups on any outcome. A significant reduction in the amount of deformity and reduced healing time to consolidation was found after treatment in the group receiving magnetic therapy treatment.
There is a lack of clinical trials evaluating the effectiveness of non-operative interventions for the management of Charcot foot (immobilisation, removable cast walkers, advice/dispensing of footwear and prescribing of orthotics). Bisphosphonates may be useful adjuncts to standard management of Charcot foot by improved healing demonstrated by a reduction in disease activity indicated by skin temperature and bone destruction. Magnetic therapy may reduce deformity, joint destruction and improve mobility.
There is a lack of evidence supporting the use of pharmacological or non-surgical interventions with reducing lesions, ulceration, rate of surgical intervention, hospital admissions and improving the quality of life of subjects with Charcot foot. Bisphosphonates may improve the healing of Charcot foot by reducing skin temperature and disease activity of Charcot foot, when applied in addition to standard interventions to control the position and shape of the foot.