'Sausage toe': a reliable sign of underlying osteomyelitis

Diabet Med. 2000 Jan;17(1):74-7. doi: 10.1046/j.1464-5491.2000.00194.x.


Aims: To follow-up patients with a 'sausage' deformity of the toe associated with local neuropathic ulceration to confirm the diagnosis of underlying osteomyelitis. This was based on our observation that some diabetic patients with suspected pedal osteomyelitis with a local neuropathic ulcer have a 'sausage' deformity of a toe.

Methods: Over a period of 2 years, 14 patients with foot ulcers, who were observed to have the 'sausage' deformity of a toe in the diabetic foot clinic were followed up and investigated.

Results: Underlying osteomyelitis was confirmed in six on the very first X-ray examination. A further seven had osteomyelitis diagnosed on bone scanning. Both the X-ray and the bone scan were equivocal in one patient, whose ulcer only healed after an 8-week course of antibiotics. Antibiotic therapy was successful in 11 patients and three patients required amputation of the affected toe. Following successful treatment, there was full resolution of the 'sausage toe' in the majority.

Conclusions: The appearance of a 'sausage toe' should alert the physician of the possibility of underlying osteomyelitis in diabetic foot, so that prompt treatment can be commenced with antibiotics.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / complications
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / complications
  • Diabetic Foot / complications*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Osteomyelitis / diagnosis*
  • Osteomyelitis / diagnostic imaging
  • Radiography
  • Toes / abnormalities*
  • Toes / diagnostic imaging