Objectives: The purpose of this study was to leverage a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) approach to characterize foot perfusion distribution in patients with diabetes, with or without foot ulcers, and determine the ability of the regional perfusion measurements to identify ulcer-healing status. Methods: Three groups of participants (n = 15 / group) were recruited: controls (without diabetes), type II diabetes, and type II diabetes with foot ulcers. All participants underwent MRI evaluating foot perfusion in three muscle layers (from plantar to dorsal) at rest and during a standardized toe-flexion exercise. The exercise perfusion and perfusion reserve values were analyzed around and away from ulcers. Participants with foot ulcers were followed up 3 months after the MRI exams to determine the foot healing status. Results: Foot plantar muscle perfusion reserves were progressively lower from controls to diabetes, and to diabetes with foot ulcers (e.g., 2.58 ± 0.67, 1.48 ± 0.71, 1.12 ± 0.35, p < 0.001). In controls, the plantar layer had significantly higher perfusion reserve than the dorsal layer, whereas in either diabetes group, there was no significant difference in perfusion reserve among muscle layers. Using the ratio of total exercise perfusion around ulcers to that away from ulcers, the sensitivity and specificity to differentiate healing from non-healed ulcers were 100% and 86%, respectively. Conclusions: Our study reveals significantly different foot perfusion distribution among controls, diabetes, and diabetes with foot ulcers. The prognostic value of MRI regional perfusion assessments has the potential to monitor interventions to improve ulcer healing outcomes. Key Points: • Contrast-free MRI permits quantitative assessment of regional foot muscle perfusion at rest and during isometric exercise. • Patients with diabetes and foot ulcers, without clinical evidence of peripheral arterial disease, had significantly impaired foot muscle perfusion and perfusion reserve. • Regional foot perfusion distribution may be used to predict the short-term healing status of foot ulcers in diabetes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3303-3311
Number of pages9
JournalEuropean Radiology
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2023


  • Diabetic foot
  • Exercise
  • Magnetic resonance imaging
  • Perfusion
  • Ulcer


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