It is difficult to determine the safe timing of weight-bearing or reconstructive surgery in patients with Charcot arthropathy of the foot and ankle. In this study the Doppler spectrum of the first dorsal metatarsal artery was used to monitor the activity of the disease activity and served as a guideline for management. A total of 15 patients (seven men and eight women) with acute diabetic Charcot arthropathy of the foot and ankle were immobilised in a non-weight-bearing cast. They were followed at two-week intervals and bilateral Doppler spectra of the first dorsal metatarsal arteries were obtained using a 10 MHz linear ultrasound probe. The patients were allowed to start weight-bearing or undergo surgery after the Doppler spectrum had returned to normal pattern. The Doppler spectra in the unaffected limbs were triphasic in pattern, whereas those in limbs with active Charcot arthropathy showed monophasic forward flow. They returned to normal after a mean of 13.6 weeks (6 to 20) of immobilisation. Three patients underwent pan-talar arthrodesis to correct gross instability and deformity. Doppler spectrum analysis of the foot may reflect the activity of the disease in patients with Charcot arthropathy, and may be used as a guide to begin weight-bearing or undergo reconstructive surgery. ©2012 British Editorial Society of Bone and Joint Surgery.
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