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Postoperative Infection Rates in Foot and Ankle Surgery: A Comparison of Patients with and without Diabetes Mellitus
Dane K. Wukich, MD1; Nicholas J. Lowery, DPM1; Ryan L. McMillen, DPM1; Robert G. Frykberg, DPM, MPH2
1 UPMC Comprehensive Foot and Ankle Center, 2100 Jane Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15203. E-mail address for D.K. Wukich: wukichdk@upmc.edu
2 Podiatry Section, Carl T. Hayden VA Medical Center, 650 East Indian School Road, Phoenix, AZ 85012
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Disclosure: The authors did not receive any outside funding or grants in support of their research for or preparation of this work. Neither they nor a member of their immediate families received payments or other benefits or a commitment or agreement to provide such benefits from a commercial entity.

Investigation performed at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Comprehensive Foot and Ankle Center, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and the Podiatry Section, Carl T. Hayden VA Medical Center, Phoenix, Arizona

Copyright ©2010 American Society for Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, Inc.
J Bone Joint Surg Am, 2010 Feb 01;92(2):287-295. doi: 10.2106/JBJS.I.00080
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Patients with diabetes mellitus may be at increased risk for infection following foot and ankle surgery. This study aimed to determine whether patients with a diagnosis of diabetes mellitus have an increased rate of infection following foot and ankle surgery compared with a cohort of patients without diabetes. Furthermore, our study sought to demonstrate whether patients with complicated diabetes are at greater risk of postoperative wound infection than are patients with uncomplicated diabetes or patients without diabetes.


We conducted a retrospective review of the charts of 1000 patients who had orthopaedic foot and ankle surgery. The following data were extracted: patient age, sex, history of diabetes mellitus, development of postoperative infection, severity of infection, inpatient or outpatient surgery, use of internal or external fixation, tobacco use, history of organ transplantation, history of rheumatoid arthritis, length of surgery, follow-up time in weeks, and comorbid conditions.


The overall infection rate in this study was 4.8%. Fifty-two percent of all infections occurred in our diabetic study group, which represented only 19% of the patient population. Postoperative infections occurred in significantly more persons with diabetes (13.2%) than in those without diabetes (2.8%). Diabetic patients were five times more likely to experience a severe infection requiring hospitalization compared with patients without diabetes. After removing the patients with neuropathy from the analysis, there was no longer a significant association between diabetes and infection. The presence of complicated diabetes increased the risk of postoperative infection by a factor of ten compared with the risk for patients without diabetes and by a factor of six compared with the risk for patients with uncomplicated diabetes. We did not identify a significantly increased risk of infection in patients with uncomplicated diabetes compared with that in patients without diabetes.


Patients with diabetes mellitus are at increased risk of severe infection compared with those without diabetes. Patients with uncomplicated diabetes did not have an increased risk of postoperative infection compared with patients without diabetes, whereas patients with complicated diabetes had a significantly higher rate of postoperative infection.

Level of Evidence: 

Prognostic Level II. See Instructions to Authors for a complete description of levels of evidence.

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    These activities have been planned and implemented in accordance with the Essential Areas and policies of the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME) through the joint sponsorship of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons and The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, Inc. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons is accredited by the ACCME to provide continuing medical education for physicians.
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