What is Charcot Arthropathy? Charcot foot, as it is commonly referred to, is a chronic progressive disease of the bone and joints found in the feet and ankles of Charcot Footour diabetic patients with peripheral neuropathy.
What leads to this Charcot foot? Having long standing diabetes for greater than 10 years is one contributing factor. Having autonomic neuropathy leads to abnormal bone formation and having sensory neuropathy causes the insensate foot, or foot without sensation and thus susceptible to trauma, this is another contributing factor. These bones in the affected foot collapse and fracture becoming malformed without any major trauma. One common malformation you see related to Charcot foot is the “rocker bottom” where there is a “bulge” on the bottom of the foot where the bones have collapsed.
Your patient with Charcot foot will present with a painless, warm, reddened and swollen foot. You may see dependent rubor, bounding pedal pulses, and feel or hear crackling of the bones when moving the foot. If a patient were to continue to bear weight on the Charcot foot there is a high chance for ulceration that could potentially lead to infection and/or amputation.
Continued, on-going weight-bearing can result in a permanently deformed foot that is more prone to ulceration and breakdown. Prompt treatment is necessary using total contact casting, where no weight bearing will occur on the affected foot for 8-12 weeks. Our job as wound care clinicians is good foot assessment with prompt identification and treatment of this acute Charcot foot to prevent foot deformity and further complications in the diabetic patient.