The insensate foot following severe lower extremity trauma: An indication for amputation?

Michael J. Bosse, Melissa L. McCarthy, Alan L. Jones, Lawrence X. Webb, Stephen H. Sims, Roy W. Sanders, Ellen J. MacKenzie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

119 Scopus citations


Background: Plantar sensation is considered to be a critical factor in the evaluation of limb-threatening lower extremity trauma. The present study was designed to determine the long-term outcomes following the treatment of severe lower extremity injuries in patients who had had absent plantar sensation at the time of the initial presentation. Methods: We examined the outcomes for a subset of fifty-five subjects who had had an insensate extremity at the time of presentation. The patients were divided into two groups on the basis of the treatment in the hospital: an insensate amputation group (twenty-six patients) and an insensate salvage group (twenty-nine patients), the latter of which was the group of primary interest. In addition, a control group was constructed from the parent cohort so that the patients in the study groups could be compared with patients in whom plantar sensation was present and in whom the limb was reconstructed. Patient and injury characteristics as well as functional and health-related quality-of-life outcomes at twelve and twenty-four months after the injury were compared between the subjects in the insensate salvage group and those in the other two groups. Results: The patients in the insensate salvage group did not report or demonstrate significantly worse outcomes at twelve or twenty-four months after the injury compared with subjects in the insensate amputation or sensate control groups. Among the patients in whom the limb was salvaged (that is, those in the insensate salvage and sensate control groups), an equal proportion (approximately 55%) had normal plantar sensation at two years after the injury, regardless of whether plantar sensation had been reported to be intact at the time of admission. No significant differences were noted among the three groups with regard to the overall, physical, or psychosocial scores. At two years after the injury, only one patient in the insensate salvage group had absent plantar sensation. Conclusions: Outcome was not adversely affected by limb salvage, despite the presence of an insensate foot at the time of presentation. More than one-half of the patients who had presented with an insensate foot that was treated with limb reconstruction ultimately regained sensation at two years. Initial plantar sensation is not prognostic of long-term plantar sensory status or functional outcomes and should not be a component of a limb-salvage decision algorithm. Level of Evidence: Prognostic Level I.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2601-2608
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Bone and Joint Surgery
Issue number12 I
StatePublished - Dec 2005

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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