Effect of Variable Body Mass on Plantar Foot Pressure and Off-Loading Device Efficacy

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An increasing body of evidence has implicated obesity as having a negative effect on the development, treatment, and outcome of lower extremity pathologic entities, including diabetic foot disease. The objective of the present study was to increase the body of knowledge with respect to the effects of obesity on foot function. Specifically, we attempted to (1) describe the relationship between an increasing body mass index (BMI) on plantar foot pressures during gait, and (2) evaluate the efficacy of commonly prescribed off-loading devices with an increasing BMI. A repeated measures design was used to compare the peak plantar foot pressures under multiple test conditions, with the volunteers acting as their own controls. The primary outcome measure was the mean peak plantar pressure in the heel, midfoot, forefoot, and first metatarsal, and the 2 variables were modification of patient weight (from “normal” BMI to “overweight,” “obese,” and “morbidly obese”) and footwear (from an athletic sneaker to a surgical shoe, controlled ankle motion walker, and total contact cast). Statistically significant increases in the peak plantar pressures were observed with increasing volunteer BMI weight class, regardless of the off-loading device used. The present investigation has provided unique and specific data with respect to the changes that occur in the peak plantar pressures with variable BMIs across different anatomic levels and with commonly used off-loading devices. From our results, we have concluded that although the plantar pressures increase with increasing weight, it appears that at least some reduction in pressure can be achieved with an off-loading device, most effectively with the total contact cast, regardless of the patient's BMI.

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