DOI: 10.12968/jowc.2024.33.2.118 ISSN: 0969-0700

Treatment of clinically uninfected diabetic foot ulcers, with and without antibiotics

Eline Huizing, Michiel A Schreve, James WT Cohen Stuart, Jean-Paul PM de Vries, Ünlü Çağdaş
  • Nursing (miscellaneous)
  • Fundamentals and skills


Current guidelines do not recommend the use of antibiotics to treat clinically uninfected ulcers. However, physicians continue to prescribe antibiotics for clinically uninfected ulcers with the rationale ‘better to be safe than sorry’. Yet, antibiotic resistance is increasing, side-effects are common and treatment costs are rising. Evidence is needed to identify whether antibiotic treatment for clinically uninfected ulcers can be justified or we should stop prescribing them. The aim of this study was to evaluate whether antibiotic treatment in cases of clinically uninfected ulcers improved ulcer healing compared to treatment without antibiotics.


Consecutive patients treated in the outpatient clinic for clinically uninfected diabetic foot ulcer both in 2015 and in 2017 were retrospectively analysed. Primary outcome was ulcer healing at one year. Secondary outcomes were limb salvage, freedom from any amputation, amputation-free survival (AFS) and survival.


A total of 102 ulcers of 91 patients were included for final analyses. The non-antibiotics and antibiotics groups both consisted of 51 ulcers. Ulcer healing at one year was 77.3% in the non-antibiotics group and 74.7% in the antibiotics group (p=0.158). No difference was found for limb salvage (93.8% versus 95.9%, respectively; p=0.661), freedom from any amputation (85.6% versus 85.6%, respectively; p=1.000), AFS (85.4% versus 79.1%, respectively; p=0.460) or survival (89.6% versus 83.7%, respectively; p=0.426).


In this study, no benefits of antibiotic treatment over non-antibiotic treatment for clinically uninfected ulcers were identified. The findings of this study emphasise the recommendation of current guidelines to not treat clinically uninfected ulcer with antibiotics.

More from our Archive