Demographic Description of the Presentation and Treatment of Lower Extremity Skin and Soft Tissue Infections Secondary to Skin Popping in Intravenous Drug Abusers

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Skin popping refers to the act of subcutaneous injection of intravenous drugs, a practice that often results in the development of cellulitis and the formation of soft tissue abscesses. Although the foot and ankle represent common injection sites, few data have described the presentation and natural history of this pathologic entity. The objective of the present study was to retrospectively assess the descriptive demographic data of a patient cohort admitted for lower extremity skin and soft tissue infection caused by intravenous drug abuse. Fifty skin popping lesions in 49 patients were identified during a 733-day data collection period (August 1, 2010 to August 31, 2012) that had been treated by the in-patient podiatric surgical service for lower extremity infection caused by intravenous drug abuse at an urban, level-one trauma center. With respect to patient race, our hospital has a typical in-patient census of 55% black patients and 25% white patients. The present patient cohort consisted of 12% black patients and 65% white patients. The mean length of stay was 5.71 ± 3.56 days, and 42 patients (85.71%) underwent some form of surgical debridement, with 31 (63.27%) having undergone a formal procedure in the operating room. Six patients (12.24%) left the hospital against medical advice or refused intervention at some definitive point of care, and 36 (73.47%) did not return for scheduled outpatient follow-up visits. Three cases (6%) resulted in minor amputation. The microbiologic culture data and common antibiotic prescriptions used in the diagnosis and treatment, respectively, of these patients have been summarized. We hope these original descriptive data can be used by other physicians treating patients at similar urban practices to improve the care of these sometimes difficult-to-treat patients and better serve this population as a whole.Level of Clinical Evidence: 3

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