Patient education for preventing diabetic foot ulceration: A systematic review

Gerlof D. Valk*, Didi M.W. Kriegsman, Willem J.J. Assendelft

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

78 Citations (Scopus)


Ulceration of the feet, which can result in loss of limbs and death, is a major health problem for people with diabetes mellitus. The objective of this review was to assess the effectiveness of patient education to prevent diabetic foot ulcers. We conducted a systematic review of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) that evaluated educational programs for the prevention of foot ulcers in people with diabetes mellitus. We used standard search methods of the Cochranes "Wounds Group". Two reviewers working independently extracted data and assessed study quality. The methodologic quality of the 8 included RCTs was poor. The internal validity score (range 0-10) of individual RCTs ranged from 2 to 4. Four trials compared the effect of intensive with brief educational interventions; 2 of these reported clinical endpoints. One study involving high-risk patients reported a reduction in ulcer incidence (OR 0.28, 95% confidence interval [95% CI 0.13-0.59) and amputation rate (OR 0.32, 95% CI 0.14-0.71) after 1 year. The other RCT did not find an effect after 7 years of follow-up. Two trials showed that participants' foot care knowledge significantly improved with education. In one trial, foot care knowledge was significantly worse at 6 months, although foot care behavior improved significantly. One RCT, which compared patient foot care education as part of a general diabetes education program to usual care, showed no reduction in the risk of foot ulceration. In one RCT, patient education as part of a complex intervention targeted at both people with diabetes and doctors reduced the prevalence of serious foot lesions at 1 year (OR 0.41, 95% CI 0.16-1.00) and improved foot care behavior. Evidence from two RCTs comparing the effect of patient-tailored education in addition to usual care was conflicting. Evidence, limited by poor methodologic quality and conflicting results, suggests that patient education may have positive but short-lived effects on foot care knowledge and behavior of patients and may reduce foot ulceration and amputations, especially in high-risk patients. High-quality randomized controlled trials are needed to establish the efficacy of patient education to prevent diabetic foot ulcerations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)633-658
Number of pages26
JournalEndocrinology and Metabolism Clinics of North America
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2002


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