Aims/hypothesis: Infection of diabetic foot ulcers is common; at early stages it is difficult to differentiate between non-infected ulcers (or those colonised with normal flora) and ulcers infected with virulent bacteria that lead to deterioration. This pilot study aimed to assess the diagnostic accuracy of inflammatory markers as an aid to making this distinction.
Methods: We included 93 diabetic patients who had an episode of foot ulcer and had not received antibiotics during the 6 months preceding the study. Ulcers were classified as infected or uninfected, according to the Infectious Diseases Society of America-International Working Group on the Diabetic Foot classification. Diabetic patients without ulcers (n=102) served as controls. C-reactive protein (CRP), orosomucoid, haptoglobin and procalcitonin were measured together with white blood cell and neutrophil counts. The diagnostic performance of each marker, in combination (using logistic regression) or alone, was assessed.
Results: As a single marker, CRP was the most informative for differentiating grade 1 from grade 2 ulcers (sensitivity 0.727, specificity 1.000, positive predictive value 1.000, negative predictive value 0.793) with an optimal cut-off value of 17 mg/l. In contrast, white blood cell and neutrophil counts were not predictive. The most relevant combination derived from the logistic regression was the association of CRP and procalcitonin (AUC 0.947), which resulted in a significantly more effective determination of ulcer grades, as shown by comparing receiver operating characteristic curves.
Conclusions/interpretation: Measurement of only two inflammatory markers, CRP and procalcitonin, might be of value for distinguishing between infected and non-infected foot ulcers in subgroups of diabetic patients, to help ensure the appropriate allocation of antibiotic treatment. Nevertheless, external validation of the diagnostic value of procalcitonin and CRP in diabetic foot ulcers is needed before routine use can be recommended.