Indian Journal of Vascular and Endovascular Surgery

: 2020  |  Volume : 7  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 116--120

Guidance for diabetic foot management during COVID-19 pandemic

Rajesh Kesavan1, V B Narayana Murthy2, Ashu Rastogi3, Arun Bal4,  
1 Department of Surgery, Apollo Hospitals; Department of Peadiatric Surgery, Hycare Superspeciality Hospitals, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India
2 Department of Peadiatric Surgery, Hycare Superspeciality Hospitals; Department of Plastic Surgery, Kauvery Hospitals, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India
3 Department of Endocrinology, Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research, Chandigarh, India
4 Department of Endocrinology, Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences, Kochi, Kerala; Department of Surgery, Raheja Hospital, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Rajesh Kesavan
Department of Surgery, Apollo Hospitals; Department of Peadiatric Surgery, Hycare Superspeciality Hospitals, Chennai, Tamil Nadu


The Indian COVID-19 situation is and will demand more and more hospital bed capacity to manage. With diabetic foot disease (DFD) being a leading cause of hospital bed occupancy, managing these patients based on evidence-based guidelines can significantly reduce the rates of hospitalization. Every hospital bed that is not needed for a patient with DFD , gives room for occupancy by a patient suffering from COVID-19. The goal of doctors treating diabetic foot is aimed at early successful treatment of infections and preventing amputations, decreasing the hospital stay of inpatients, and effective cost reduction. Hence, changing our way of approach to managing a patient with diabetic foot and implementing new and unique ways is the need of the hour at this time of crisis. This guidance also has a section on managing diabetes in people with diabetic foot during the COVID19 pandemic.

How to cite this article:
Kesavan R, Murthy V B, Rastogi A, Bal A. Guidance for diabetic foot management during COVID-19 pandemic.Indian J Vasc Endovasc Surg 2020;7:116-120

How to cite this URL:
Kesavan R, Murthy V B, Rastogi A, Bal A. Guidance for diabetic foot management during COVID-19 pandemic. Indian J Vasc Endovasc Surg [serial online] 2020 [cited 2021 Jul 30 ];7:116-120
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Full Text


People with diabetes represent a precarious population that is at increased risk of morbidity and mortality from COVID-19.[1] Hence, decreasing their hospital visits by differentiating those with life/limb-threatening (Infectious Diseases Society of America [IDSA] Grade 3 and 4) from nonlimb-threatening infections forms the basis of triaging.[2] Wound care centers away from hospitals can take care of most patients except in the critical category.


The following guidelines are for diabetic foot specialists based on best available evidence and expert opinion from the global surgical community adapted to the Indian context.

At the time of triage, inquiry should be made about possible COVID-19 symptoms of cough or sore throat or fever and if present, prescribed protocol should be followed. Furthermore, we must constantly remember that features of sepsis might be absent or diminished in people with diabetes and the elderly, while, on the other hand, a sepsis in a patient could be also due to COVID.[3]

Patient complaints can be:

Foot painErythemaSwellingFoot ulcer.

Please follow the color-coded flowchart and table to understand presentation, evaluation, and management.

Red: Indicates critical state at presentation and is taken as the first priority.

Orange: Indicates emergency situation at presentation and is the second priority.

Yellow: Indicates that extra care needs to be taken and is the third priority.

Green: Indicates a stable situation.

Any patient with features of breathlessness, ssfever, tachycardia, and rule out sepsis (could also be due to COVID 19) must be referred to a hospital with intensive care unit (ICU) facilities (CRITICAL).

Management of patients without active wounds

The management of patient presenting with pain is illustrated in [Figure 1].{Figure 1}

The management protocol for patient presenting with erythema is outlined in [Figure 2].{Figure 2}

A patient presenting with swelling is managed according to the protocol shown in [Figure 3].{Figure 3}

Management of patients with wounds

The patients presenting with active wounds are managed according to the IDSA classification and guidelines outlined in [Figure 4].{Figure 4}

 Need for a Uniform Approach

[Table 1] outlines the appropriate standard of care to be offered to patients with DFD at this time of crisis and is based on our experience in handling the intricacies in the manangement of such patients since the pandemic began. Technology is used to be in touch with the patients at home unable to travel during the lockdown. Home care services are used to provide continuity of care. Shifting of patients at the appropriate time to the hospital and ICU goes a long way in not only providing a rational and sensible use of resources but also keeping the interest of these patients and not be a stress to the hospital services already reeling under the burden of COVID 19 pandemic. The aim is also to keep the diabetic foot and wound care patients and related health-care workers safe during such a highly infective stage.{Table 1}

Diabetic foot evaluation does not restrict itself to the assessment of the infection alone. The various subgroups of patients who present to us have additional features which must be considered. A “simple” cellulitis can jeopardize the glycemic control and trip the already compromised organ functions to critical levels. To provide a continuous care in a multispecialty multidisciplinary manner, a record of the events must be done in a simple and scientific manner so that the condition of the patient can be shared among the involved specialties to understand the exact condition of the patient.

[Table 1] shows not only the condition of the foot but also the status of the different types of ulcers among our existing patients and condition of the organ systems. A preliminary impression of the condition of the patient is derived based on a holistic evaluation of the patient.


In accordance with the recent guidelines on telemedicine published by the medical council of India, we have come up with a teleconsultation protocol.[4] Almost all patients except critical ones can be triaged via teleconsultation.

[Figure 5] is a representation of the teleconsultation guidelines that can be followed.{Figure 5}

Diagnosis based on photos are not always reliable and triaging can vary between clinicians. Hence, practicing clinicians are advised to use their discretion in making decisions.

Primary consultation can end in three ways:

The clinician requests for laboratory investigations including complete blood count, renal profile and erythrocyte sedimentation rate/C-reactive protein and reschedules the consultation to review the reportsThe clinician requests the patient for in-person consultation due to:

The technical limitations in assessing the wound when there is suspicion of infection involving deeper tissuesPatient requires emergency admissionRequires outpatient assessment with minor debridement.If the clinician is convinced about healthy wound status, he/she concludes the consultation and the patient is advised on preventive aspects of foot care.

The teleconsultation is incomplete without patient's education. The key elements of which will be:

Strict usage of footwear with socks indoors and while walking around the houseTwice daily examination of both the feet with/without the help of the caregiverWash the feet twice daily followed by drying and application of moisturizer (to areas of foot other than web spaces)As the number of steps walked is going to decrease as patients are confined indoors, patients are advised to use any comfortable protective footwear as it is always better than bare foot walking. Patients should be advised to use separate set of footwear for indoor and outdoor use to avoid contamination of the place of livingFollow the guidelines of protection against COVID-19 with special emphasis on those on immunosuppressive therapyTo watch for danger signs/symptoms including – thickening of skin, fissures/ulcer/blister, fever, redness, warmth, pain, and dischargeThe patients with improving wounds being managed by teleconsultation to be taught the application of a simple nonadherent dressing and to be emphasized on keeping it healthy. They are advised simple offloading measures as any offloading is better than no offloadingIt would be prudent to assess the mental state of the patient secondary to the pandemic and lockdown and address his/her fear of contracting the disease if any during the entire consultation and try to offer mental health support if necessary.

There is always the limitation of the confidential information shared via consultation being exploited by the hackers. The clinician must be extremely vigilant, and any file transfer comprising confidential information such as photos, biological examination reports, or radiography must be carried out with secure messaging applications on secure platforms.[5] The records of teleconsultation must be saved by the clinician for medicolegal purposes and future reference.

Battling COVID-19 as diabetic foot specialists – safety and ethical issues

All elective cases are to be postponedConsent discussion with patients must cover the risk of COVID-19 exposure and the potential consequences[6]Structured system of transfer of COVID-positive patient to the operating room (OR, operation theater) via communication between the surgeon, anesthetist, and perioperative staffWe must presume that the entire OR is contaminated[7] and hence:

Follow negative pressure in OR/allow 30 min time between cases for air exchangeMinimal number of staffs in the ORHospital charts, pagers, and cell phones must be left outside the ORDedicated runner should be posted outside of the OR to obtain suppliesAll single-use equipment (even unopened) in the room is thrown away at the end of the caseElectrosurgery units should be set to the lowest possible settings for the desired effect. Use of monopolar electrosurgery, ultrasonic dissectors, and advanced bipolar devices should be minimized, as these can lead to particle aerosolization. If available, monopolar diathermy pencils with attached smoke evacuators should be used.

All members of OR to wear standard surgical personal protective equipment (PPE) including a face shield, N95 respirator, waterproof gown, double gloves, and shoe coversClinicians are more likely to infect themselves when removing their PPE.[8] Proper gowning and doffing to be assisted and monitored by a buddy system (colleague).

Guidance for people with diabetes and diabetic foot during coronavirus pandemic

People with diabetic foot, especially foot infections, have compromised immune response and hence are considered to be vulnerable population for serious illness and unfavorable outcomes resulting from coronavirus infection.[9],[10] It has been noted that people with coexisting comorbidities including diabetes mellitus were more frequent among those who died from coronavirus.

What precautions need to be taken?

Never omit your preexisting antidiabetic medications: Keep a sufficient stock of medicines for at least 3–4-week buffer stock, especially if you are under quarantineIf on insulin: insulin vials/pen fills/syringes should be in adequate stock and stored at appropriate place (preferably at 4°C, door of refrigerator). Never omit insulin because it may increase chances of hyperosmolar nonketotic coma or diabetic ketoacidosis.

What to do?

Frequent monitoring of blood glucose: should be performed by a glucometer available at home. If the glucometer is not available, consideration to be given to have one along with adequate number of glucometer stripsAdequate hydration: should be maintained, especially if on sodium glucose cotransporter type 2 inhibitorsHypoglycemia: Frequent meals should be consumed with more frequent blood glucose monitoring if encompassing episodes of hypoglycemia or had prior hypoglycemiaContact: Nearest health services contact number and address should be available and be approached in cases of:

Symptomatic Hypoglycemia: More likely if having diabetic foot infections with renal compromiseBlood glucose persistently >250 mg/dl with osmotic symptoms of polyuria and polydipsia.

However, it is advisable not to frequent the hospital for routine ailments in these times when medical facility may be utilized by triage to those with severe/life-threatening illness.

Lifestyle measures and Exercise: Continue lifestyle measures as recommended by your physician as before including a healthy diet, green leafy vegetables and fruits. Do continue exercise routine at home including resistance exercisesAntihypertensives: Continue your antihypertensive medication for blood pressure (BP) as prescribed by your physician with appropriate home-based BP monitoring devices. If you are on angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors, they should also be continued.


The authors would like to thank Dr. Aarthi Viswanathan Subramanian and Dr. Mohanasundaram Thiruvengadam.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.


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