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BACKGROUND: Diabetic peripheral neuropathy is known to cause postural instability. This study investigated standing balance in patients with diabetic neuropathy with secondary foot complications: foot ulceration, partial foot amputation and trans-tibial amputation, which are expected to pose further challenge to balance control.
METHODS: In this cross-sectional study, 23 patients with diabetic neuropathy alone (controls) were compared with 23 patients with diabetic foot ulceration, 16 patients with partial foot amputation and 22 patients with trans-tibial amputation. Posturography was used to determine the centre of pressure excursion during quiet standing. Differences between the 4 groups were tested using ANOVA and post-hoc comparisons.
FINDINGS: The 4 groups varied in neuropathy score (P=0.001) and demonstrated significant decline in balance from neuropathy alone to foot ulceration, to partial foot amputation and trans-tibial amputation based on total excursion of centre of pressure (P<0.001) and centre of pressure excursion in antero-posterior direction (P<0.001). The excursion of centre of pressure in medio-lateral direction varied between 4 groups (P<0.05) however, there was no significant trend. The distance between ankles increased significantly from neuropathy to trans-tibial amputee group (P=0.001). Post-hoc comparison with controls revealed that each of three study groups demonstrated decreased balance (diabetic neuropathy vs. foot ulceration, P=0.001, diabetic neuropathy vs. partial foot amputation, P=0.002 and diabetic neuropathy vs. trans-tibial amputation, P=0.009).
INTERPRETATION: Balance deterioration among patient groups from diabetic neuropathy alone to trans-tibial amputation appears to result from bio-mechanical impairment caused by progression of foot complications in addition to postural instability caused by diabetic neuropathy.