Foot infections associated with soft tissue emphysema, or the radiographic appearance of gas, are widely considered to necessitate urgent decompression with excisional debridement of the necrotic and infectious tissue burden. The objective of this investigation was to describe anatomic features and clinical outcomes associated with the presence of soft tissue emphysema in foot infections. A retrospective chart review was performed of 62 subjects meeting selection criteria. These were primarily male (74.2%), with a history of diabetes mellitus (85.5%), and without a history of previous lower extremity revascularization (98.4%). The primary radiographic location of the soft tissue emphysema was most frequently in the forefoot (61.3%), followed by the midfoot (21.0%), and rearfoot (16.1%). The soft tissue emphysema was most frequently observed primarily in the dorsal foot tissue (49.2%), followed by both dorsal and plantar foot tissue (27.4%), and the plantar foot tissue (24.2%). The soft tissue emphysema was confined to the primary anatomic location in 74.2% of subjects, while 25.8% of cases demonstrated extension into a more proximal anatomic area. Eighty-two percent of subjects underwent a bedside incision and drainage procedure on presentation in the emergency department, and 95.2% underwent a formal incision and drainage procedure in the operating room at 1.05 ± 0.79 (0-5) postadmission days. Twenty-seven percent of subjects had an unplanned 30-day readmission and 17.7% underwent an unplanned reoperation within 30 days following the index discharge. Fifty-two percent of subjects underwent a minor or major amputation during the index admission, while 33.9% eventually resulted in major limb amputation within 12 months. We hope that this investigation adds to the body of knowledge and provides expectations with respect to the evaluation and treatment of foot soft tissue infections complicated by the presence of radiographic soft tissue emphysema.
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Published online: September 08, 2021
Financial Disclosure: None reported.
Conflict of Interest: Meyr serves on the ACFAS Board of Directors and as a JFAS section editor.
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