Immobilization-induced osteolysis and recovery in neuropathic foot impairments

David R. Sinacore, Mary K. Hastings, Kathryn L. Bohnert, Michael J. Strube, David J. Gutekunst, Jeffrey E. Johnson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Background Neuropathic foot impairments treated with immobilization and off-loading result in osteolysis. In order to prescribe and optimize rehabilitation programs after immobilization we need to understand the magnitude of pedal osteolysis after immobilization and the time course for recovery. Objective To determine differences in a) foot skin temperature; b) calcaneal bone mineral density (BMD) after immobilization; c) calcaneal BMD after 33–53 weeks of recovery; and d) percent of feet classified as osteopenic or osteoporotic after recovery in participants with neuropathic plantar ulcers (NPU) compared to Charcot neuroarthropathy (CNA). Methods Fifty-five participants with peripheral neuropathy were studied. Twenty-eight participants had NPU and 27 participants had CNA. Bilateral foot skin temperature was assessed before immobilization and bilateral calcaneal BMD was assessed before immobilization, after immobilization and after recovery using quantitative ultrasonometry. Results Before immobilization, skin temperature differences in CNA between their index and contralateral foot were markedly higher than NPU feet (3.0 degree C versus 0.7 degree C, respectively, p < 0.01); BMD in NPU immobilized feet averaged 486 ± 136 mg/cm2, and CNA immobilized feet averaged 456 ± 138 mg/cm2, p > 0.05). After immobilization, index NPU feet lost 27 mg/cm2; CNA feet lost 47 mg/cm2 of BMD, p < 0.05. After recovery, 61% of NPU index feet and 84% of CNA index feet were classified as osteopenic or osteoporotic. Conclusions There was a greater osteolysis after immobilization with an attenuated recovery in CNA feet compared to NPU feet. The attenuated recovery of pedal BMD in CNA feet resulted in a greater percentage of feet classified as osteoporotic and osteopenic.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)237-244
Number of pages8
StatePublished - Dec 2017


  • Bone loss
  • Neuropathic (Charcot) osteoarthropathy
  • Neuropathic plantar ulcers
  • Quantitative ultrasonometry
  • Total contact casting


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