A case series to describe the clinical characteristics of foot ulceration in patients with rheumatoid arthritis.

Heidi J Siddle, Jill Firth, Robin Waxman, E Andrea Nelson, Philip S Helliwell

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The aim of this study was to describe the clinical characteristics of foot ulceration in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Adults with RA and current foot ulceration but without diabetes were recruited. Clinical examination included assessment of RA disease activity, foot deformity, peripheral vascular disease, neuropathy and plantar pressures. Location, wound characteristics and time to healing were recorded for each ulcer. Participants completed the Health Assessment Questionnaire and Leeds Foot Impact Scale. Thirty-two cases with 52 current ulcers were recruited. Thirteen patients (41%) experienced more than one current ulcer: 5 (16%) had bilateral ulceration, 15 (47%) had previous ulceration at a current ulcer site. The majority (n¿=¿33) of open ulcers were located over the dorsal aspect of the interphalangeal joints (n¿=¿12), plantar aspect of the metatarsophalangeal joints (MTPJs) (n¿=¿12) and medial aspect of first MTPJs (n¿=¿9). In ulcerated limbs (n¿=¿37), ankle brachial pressure index (ABPI) was <0.8 in 2 (5%); protective sensation was reduced in 25 (68%) and peak plantar pressures were >6 kg/cm(2) in 6 (16%). Mean ulcer size was 4.84 by 3.29 mm. Most ulcers (n¿=¿42, 81%) were superficial; five (9.6%) were infected. Time to healing was available for 41 ulcers: mean duration was 28 weeks. Three ulcers remained open. In conclusion, foot ulceration in RA is recurrent and multiple ulcers are common. Whilst ulcers are small and shallow, time to achieve healing is slow, posing infection risk. Reduced protective sensation is common in affected patients. The prevalence of arterial disease is low but may be under estimated due to high intolerance of ABPI.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)541-545
Number of pages5
JournalClinical Rheumatology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2012



  • foot ulceration
  • healing
  • rheumatoid arthritis
  • wound management

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