Improvement in Gait Following Combined Ankle and Subtalar Arthrodesis

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Abstract

Background:

This study assessed the hypothesis that arthrodesis of both the ankle and the hindfoot joints produces an objective improvement of function as measured by gait analysis of patients with severe ankle and hindfoot arthritis.

Methods:

Twenty-one patients with severe ankle and hindfoot arthritis who underwent unilateral tibiotalocalcaneal arthrodesis with an intramedullary nail were prospectively studied with three-dimensional (3D) gait analysis at a minimum of one year postoperatively. The mean age at the time of the operation was fifty-nine years, and the mean duration of follow-up was seventeen months (range, twelve to thirty-one months). Temporospatial measurements included cadence, step length, walking velocity, and total support time. The kinematic parameters were sagittal plane motion of the ankle, knee, and hip. The kinetic parameters were sagittal plane ankle power and moment and hip power. Symmetry of gait was analyzed by comparing the step lengths on the affected and unaffected sides.

Results:

There was significant improvement in multiple parameters of postoperative gait as compared with the patients’ own preoperative function. Temporospatial data showed significant increases in cadence (p = 0.03) and walking speed (p = 0.001) and decreased total support time (p = 0.02). Kinematic results showed that sagittal plane ankle motion had decreased, from 13.2° preoperatively to 10.2° postoperatively, in the operatively treated limb (p = 0.02), and increased from 22.2° to 24.1° (p = 0.01) in the contralateral limb. Hip motion on the affected side increased from 39° to 43° (p = 0.007), and knee motion increased from 56° to 60° (p = 0.054). Kinetic results showed significant increases in ankle moment (p < 0.0001) of the operatively treated limb, ankle power of the contralateral limb (p = 0.009), and hip power on the affected side (p = 0.005) postoperatively. There was a significant improvement in gait symmetry (p = 0.01).

Conclusions:

There was a small loss of sagittal plane motion in the affected limb postoperatively. There were marked increases in gait velocity, ankle moment, and hip motion and power, documenting objective improvements in ambulatory function. The data showed that preoperative ankle motion was greatly diminished. This may suggest that pain is more important than stiffness in asymmetric gait.

Level of Evidence:

Therapeutic Level IV. See Instructions for Authors for a complete description of levels of evidence.

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