Charcot of the foot and ankle, also called Charcot Neuroarthropathy, is a condition that causes weakening of the bones, which can occur in people with significant nerve damage (neuropathy). The condition is especially prevalent in people who suffer from diabetes or other potentially nerve damaging conditions. The bones are weakened enough to fracture. With continued walking, the foot eventually changes shape. As this occurs, the foot and ankle have a high risk for skin breakdown or ulceration, which can lead to infections. Charcot of the foot and ankle is a very serious condition as it may lead to severe deformity, disability, or even worse, amputation. Having Charcot foot in one limb puts a person at increased risk of developing it in the other.
Due to its seriousness, it is very important that patients take preventative measures and seek immediate help if they experience any of the following symptoms. When Charcot foot begins, your foot may be:
Charcot foot develops because of neuropathy, which decreases a person’s ability to feel sensations of pain, temperature, or trauma. Due to having a diminished sensation, a person may continue to walk, thus making the injury worse. Those who have suffered from neuropathy for an extended period are at risk for developing Charcot foot. Also, those who have a shortened Achilles tendon are even more likely to develop Charcot foot.
Surgery may be necessary to correct serious deformity that resulted from the condition.
Exostectomy – If a bony prominence is present (with or without ulcerations), removal of the prominence may be a treatment option.
Reconstruction – For situations where the foot is unbraceable or in the case of chronic, non-healing ulcers, reconstruction may be necessary. It is of the utmost importance that this procedure be performed by a surgeon specifically trained in Charcot Reconstruction with training in external fixation.
Amputation – Used in only the most severe cases and only when the foot is unsalvageable due to abscesses, infection or extensive bone loss.
Again, Charcot foot is a very serious condition. Dr. McAlister has specific training in caring for this condition. He is fellowship-trained as a foot and ankle surgeon with experience both treating Charcot foot conservatively and in surgery for reconstruction or amputation, when necessary. If you have or suspect you have Charcot foot, it’s important to get care early and begin a treatment plan.