Tissue and swab culture in diabetic foot infections: neuropathic versus neuroischemic ulcers

Int J Low Extrem Wounds. 2013 Jun;12(2):87-93. doi: 10.1177/1534734613481975. Epub 2013 May 9.


We evaluated the diagnostic performance of swabs versus tissue cultures in 28 diabetic patients with neuropathic (group A) and 22 diabetic patients with neuroischemic foot ulcer (group B) and the differences in bacterial isolates between the 2 groups. In group A, sensitivity, specificity, positive predictive value (PPV), and negative predictive value (NPV) of swab cultures for the diagnosis of infection were 100%, 40%, 88.5%, and 100%, respectively. In group B, the corresponding values were 100%, 22.2%, 65%, and 100%. In group A, sensitivity, specificity, PPV, and NPV of swab cultures for the identification of pathogens were 100%, 14.3%, 53.8%, and 100%, respectively. In group B, the corresponding values were 100%, 18.2%, 55%, and 100%. In each group, Staphylococcus aureus and Pseudomonas aeruginosa were the most common isolates. The number of isolates was significantly higher on swab versus tissue cultures only in group A (P = .033). No differences were observed between groups in number of isolates and colony forming units. In conclusion, swab cultures are highly sensitive but less specific and have an excellent NPV both in diabetic patients with neuropathic and in those with neuroischemic foot ulcer. There are no differences between the groups in microbial load.

Keywords: culture; diabetes mellitus; diabetic foot; diagnosis; infection; ischemia; neuropathy.

MeSH terms

  • Biopsy / methods
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Colony Count, Microbial
  • Diabetic Angiopathies / microbiology
  • Diabetic Angiopathies / pathology
  • Diabetic Foot / microbiology
  • Diabetic Foot / pathology*
  • Diabetic Neuropathies / microbiology
  • Diabetic Neuropathies / pathology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Wound Infection / microbiology
  • Wound Infection / pathology*