End-Stage Hindfoot Arthrosis: Outcomes of Tibiocalcaneal Fusion Using Internal and Ilizarov Fixation

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End-stage post-traumatic pantalar arthrosis from ankle, pilon, and talus fractures has often been complicated by infection, bone loss, and a soft tissue deficit. Patients can present with neuropathy, diabetes, tobacco use, and previously failed arthrodesis. Fusion in this population has been challenging, with nonunion rates up to 30%, often leading to amputation. We reviewed the results of a standardized protocol that combined simultaneous internal fixation with the Ilizarov technique to achieve fusion in high-risk patients. With institutional review board approval, a retrospective review of the patients treated with simultaneous internal fixation and an Ilizarov frame was undertaken. The records and radiographs allowed identification of the comorbidities and the presence or absence of successful fusion. Complications were acknowledged and treated. Fifteen patients had undergone the procedure. The mean follow-up period was 27.9 (range 9 to 67) months. Thirteen patients (86.67%) had had previous fusion failure. Twelve patients (80%) had developed post-traumatic arthrosis, 5 (33.33%) of whom had open injuries. All patients had 1 comorbidity, and 10 (66.67%) had multiple, including rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes (types 1 and 2), and smoking. Four patients (26.67%) presented with deep infection and bone loss. Union was achieved in 11 (73.33%), with 12 (80%) patients experiencing profound pain relief. Seven patients (46.67%) required symptomatic hardware removal. Three patients (20%) eventually underwent below-the-knee amputation for recalcitrant nonunion. Statistically significant correlations were found between smoking and wound infection and revision and between nonunion and amputation. Our results have indicated that combined internal fixation with Ilizarov application can provide a strong surgical option for the management of end-stage, pantalar arthritis. More studies are needed to compare the cohort outcomes and gait analysis in these patients with those who have chosen below-the-knee amputation.

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