Immersion Foot: A Case Report

J Emerg Med. 2015 Aug;49(2):e45-8. doi: 10.1016/j.jemermed.2015.02.040. Epub 2015 May 23.


Background: Immersion foot (commonly called "trench foot") was originally described in the military literature during World War I. Since that time, the emergency department (ED) has become a common setting where this injury presents. However, this topic is neglected in the emergency medicine literature. The purpose of this case report is to present trench foot in a way that is relevant to emergency physicians and to provide an up-to-date summary of the history, case reports, physiology, clinical presentation, and treatment of this injury.

Case report: Here we present the case of a homeless, schizophrenic patient who presented to one Midwestern ED in January for immersion foot. Photos of the actual patient are shown to illustrate the case. WHY SHOULD AN EMERGENCY PHYSICIAN BE AWARE OF THIS?: Due to unfamiliarity, immersion foot can go undiagnosed during assessment of patients exposed to moist environments. In addition, patients at increased risk for developing immersion foot are frequently encountered in EDs. Most importantly, the appropriate treatment for immersion foot is different than the treatment for other freezing cold injuries.

Keywords: immersion foot; nonfreezing cold injury; trench foot.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Humans
  • Ill-Housed Persons*
  • Immersion Foot / complications*
  • Immersion Foot / pathology*
  • Male
  • Pain / etiology
  • Pruritus / etiology