Background: Puncture wounds in the feet of children present a clinical dilemma.
Objectives: To evaluate our approach, we reviewed the charts and all available images of 80 children admitted to our institution because of plantar punctures from 1988 to 1999.
Methods: The charts of 80 children were reviewed retrospectively.
Results: Three groups of patients were found: 59 with superficial cellulitis, 11 with retained foreign bodies, and 10 with osteomyelitis and/or septic arthritis. There was a significant presentation delay in patients from the second and third groups. Most common organisms were Staphylococcus aureus or Group A Streptococcus. Of the 80 children, 34 were treated surgically and 46 were treated with antibiotic therapy alone. All patients with osteomyelitis and septic arthritis were re-examined; at follow-up, all but one were asymptomatic apart from residual radiologic sequelae in four.
Conclusions: Patients with an established infection 24–36 hours after a plantar puncture should be admitted to hospital for parenteral antibiotic therapy. Delayed presentation is a significant marker for deep-seated infection. Further infection or relapse after initial improvement suggests the presence of osteomyelitis or a retained foreign body. A bone scan is advisable in all patients with suspected osteomyelitis: a positive bone scan necessitates aggressive early debridement combined with appropriate antibiotics; while negative bone scan, X-ray and exploration suggest that the infection is due to a foreign body, which can be detected by computed tomography.