Undiagnosed severe sleep apnoea and diabetic foot ulceration - a case series based hypothesis: a hitherto under emphasized factor in failure to heal

Diabet Med. 2016 Feb;33(2):e1-4. doi: 10.1111/dme.12813.


Background: Although great progress has been made in managing diabetic foot disease, it continues to carry significant morbidity and mortality. Obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) and diabetes frequently coexist and recent studies suggest significant under-recognition of OSA in those with diabetes. There are no current reports on the direct clinical impact of OSA on acute or chronic diabetic foot ulcer healing.

Case report: We describe three cases with Type 2 diabetes and a mean BMI of 50 kg/m(2) in whom we believe undiagnosed severe OSA may have impeded the rate of recovery of acutely infected foot ulcers. Despite standard care whilst in hospital with optimization of glycaemia, daily wound care, ulcer offloading techniques including casting, it was difficult to achieve satisfactory granulation in the first two cases with previously unrecognized and hence untreated severe OSA (Apnoea-Hypopnea Index > 30) until correction had been achieved through continuous positive airway pressure therapy (CPAP). In the third case, despite all optimization techniques, healing has not been achieved and individuals' reluctance to consider CPAP may be one possible factor.

Discussion: We observe in three severely obese individuals with diabetes that untreated severe OSA may have contributed to delayed wound healing. We also observed an improvement in two individuals after institution of CPAP therapy. Clinicians managing the diabetic foot should consider investigating the presence of OSA in non-healing or slowly progressive foot ulcers when all other factors have been fully optimized.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Continuous Positive Airway Pressure
  • Delayed Diagnosis
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / complications*
  • Diabetic Foot / complications*
  • Diabetic Foot / microbiology
  • Diabetic Foot / rehabilitation
  • Diabetic Foot / therapy
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / complications*
  • Obesity, Morbid / complications*
  • Patient Compliance
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive / complications
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive / diagnosis*
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive / physiopathology
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive / therapy
  • Soft Tissue Infections / complications
  • Soft Tissue Infections / microbiology
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Wound Healing