Objective: The objectives of this study were to compare intrinsic foot muscle cross-sectional area (CSA) in patients with diabetic polyneuropathy and nondiabetic control subjects and to examine the association between intrinsic muscle CSA and clawing/hammering of the toes in neuropathic feet.
Research design and methods: High-resolution T2-weighted fast spin-echo images and parametric T2 multiple spin-echo images were acquired using multiple spin-echo magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of frontal plane sections of the metatarsal region of the foot in a sample of eight individuals with diabetic polyneuropathy and eight age- and sex-matched nonneuropathic nondiabetic control subjects. The configuration of joints of the second toe was obtained using a three-dimensional contact digitizer.
Results: Remarkable atrophy was found in all the intrinsic muscles of neuropathic subjects as compared with nondiabetic control subjects. Quantitative T2 analysis showed a 73% decrease in muscle tissue CSA distally in the neuropathic subjects. Muscle comprised only 8.3 +/- 2.9% (means +/- SD) of total foot CSA compared with 30.8 +/- 3.9% in control subjects. No significant differences were found between the groups in the metatarso-phalangeal and proximal and distal interphalangeal joint angles of the second ray. Moreover, clawing/hammering of the toes was found in only two of eight neuropathic subjects.
Conclusions: Although sensory neuropathy is often emphasized in considerations of diabetic foot pathology, our results show that the consequences of motor neuropathy in the feet are profound in people with diabetes. This has implications for foot function and may play a significant role in postural instability. However, intrinsic muscle atrophy does not necessarily appear to imply toe deformity.