Microcirculatory defects in diabetes are linked with neuropathy and the onset of diabetic foot syndrome. In this study we quantify pressure- and posture-dependent changes of plantar temperatures as a surrogate of tissue perfusion in healthy volunteers versus diabetes patients diagnosed with neuropathy in the absence of macroangiopathy.
Healthy volunteers (n = 31) as well as patients with diabetes diagnosed with severe polyneuropathy (n = 30) were enrolled in a clinical study to test for plantar temperature changes in the feet during extended episodes of standing. These lasted between 5 and 20 min each over 95 min, in between the participants were asked to take a seated position for 5 min and release the pressure from the feet. Major macroangiopathy was excluded before study enrolment. Custom-made insoles harbored temperature and pressure sensors positioned at eight preselected positions for recording.
In both subgroups a significant plantar temperature downshift occurred within 10 min of standing, which was especially detected during the initial 45 min of the study protocol. Comparisons between healthy volunteers and patients with diabetes revealed no differences in the magnitude of temperature downshifts during stance episodes. Pressure sensor recordings revealed that healthy volunteers intermittently released pressure during the longer stance episodes due to discomfort, whereas the patients with diabetes and polyneuropathy did not.
Our findings demonstrate a tight plantar temperature regulation following pressure exposure. In patients with diabetes and peripheral sensoric neuropathy the temperature drop is similar to healthy volunteers. Potentially, prolonged stance periods resulting in less perfused plantar tissue may remain unrecognized with polyneuropathy, whereas discomfort develops in healthy controls.
The study was supported by EFRE Förderung der Europäischen Union und Landesmittel des Ministeriums für Wirtschaft, Wissenschaft und Digitalisierung Sachsen-Anhalt (Vorhabennummer: ZS/2016/05/78,615 and ZS/2018/12/95,325). JK and PRM were supported by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) - project ID 97,850,925 - SFB854, AM by the Chinese Scholarship Council (CSC).