Changing the natural history of diabetic neuropathy: incidence of ulcer/amputation in the contralateral limb of patients with a unilateral nerve decompression procedure

Ann Plast Surg. 2004 Dec;53(6):517-22. doi: 10.1097/


The natural history of diabetes neuropathy is progressive and irreversible loss of sensibility in the feet, leading to ulceration and/or amputation in 15% of patients. The prevalence of neuropathy is more than 50% in those who have been diabetic for 20 years. Decompression of the tibial and peroneal nerves in those with diabetic neuropathy improves sensation in 70% of patients. The impact of this surgery on the development of ulcers and amputations in both the operated and the contralateral, nonoperated limb was evaluated in a retrospective analysis of 50 patients with diabetes a mean of 4.5 years (range, 2-7 years) from the date of surgery. No ulcers or amputations occurred in the index limb of these patients. In contrast, there were 12 ulcers and 3 amputations in 15 different patients in contralateral limbs. This difference was significant at P < 0.001. It is concluded that decompression of lower extremity nerves in diabetic neuropathy changes the natural history of this disease, representing a paradigm shift in health care costs.

MeSH terms

  • Amputation / statistics & numerical data*
  • Decompression, Surgical / statistics & numerical data*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / complications*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / epidemiology
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / complications*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / epidemiology
  • Diabetic Foot / epidemiology
  • Diabetic Foot / etiology*
  • Humans
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Sensation
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome