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Skeletal Manifestations of Skin Ulcer in the Lower Leg



Skin ulcers of the lower leg are known to cause both destructive and, more commonly, bone-forming lesions. Typically, bone-forming lesions in this disorder have clearly defined margins although there may be extensive reactive bone formation involving much or all of the adjacent diaphysis. These lesions are best described in patients from tropical areas, and in these environmental contexts, these are known as tropical ulcers, but leg ulcers can be caused by a variety of diseases and conditions, of which vascular insufficiency plays an important role among the elderly. The lesions are important clinically because of the disability associated with the ulcer and because of complications that can develop including osteomyelitis and cancer. In most cases, the bone lesions caused by ulcer are easily diagnosed in archaeological human skeletal remains and provide some insight into the prevalence of this disorder in antiquity.

In this paper, we review the gross and radiological manifestations of bone lesions resulting from overlying skin ulcer in tibiae of 13 cases including archaeological and modern medically documented skeletons. In two of the cases, there is medical documentation regarding the presence of a chronic ulcer on the lower leg. The objectives of this paper were to explore the diversity of bone lesions associated with ulcers of the tibia and to provide an improved basis for the diagnosis of this disorder in human skeletal remains. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.