Compression Arthrodesis of the Rheumatoid Ankle and Hindfoot

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The reported frequency of involvement of the rheumatoid ankle and hindfoot varies between 9% and 70%. Fusion of the ankle joint, the subtalar, talonavicular, or calcaneocuboidal joint (Chopart's joint) or all of them is the preferred method of treatment for severe rheumatoid involvement causing pain, instability, and/or severe deformity. Ankle arthroplasty is indicated rarely. Pantalar arthrodesis is performed more frequently than talonavicular fusion or ankle fusion. Reported rates of fusion after compression arthrodesis of the ankle joint vary from 65% to 90%, averaging 80% to 85%. Higher success rates of as high as 95% were obtained with internal lag screw fixation as proposed by Wagner. The result of various combinations of arthrodesis (n = 54) of the ankle joint, the subtalar joint, and Chopart's joint in 43 patients with rheumatoid arthritis operated on in a 10-year period from 1984 through 1993 are presented. In all cases internal fixation by lag screws according to Wagner was used with a modified lateral approach incorporating osteotomy of the distal fibula. The technique is described in detail. Solid fusion was obtained in 21% of the cases after 8 weeks, in 69% of the cases after 12 weeks, and in 92% of the cases after 16 weeks. In 8% (3 patients) revision because of delayed union or nonunion eventually led to bony fusion. Postoperative pain, walking capacity, gait, and the subjective outcome were assessed. Complications occurred in 16%, revision was performed in 11.6% of the cases; in all cases healing was obtained. Overall patient satisfaction was 93%.

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