Effectiveness of Hindfoot Arthrodesis by Stable Internal Fixation in Various Eichenholtz Stages of Neuropathic Ankle Arthropathy

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The optimal time to treat neuropathic (Charcot) arthropathy of the ankle and peritalar joint is controversial because of the various treatment options available and the variable results reported in published studies. We sought to determine the outcome of hind foot arthrodesis with stable internal fixation in patients with different Eichenholtz stages of arthropathy. We prospectively studied patients with substantial disabilities caused by neuropathic arthropathy in deformed, unstable ankle and peritalar joints, with or without ulcerations, who had undergone treatment from July 2007 to December 2012. All patients underwent ankle arthrodesis, autologous iliac crest bone grafting, and subtalar joint arthrodesis, with or without talonavicular joint arthrodesis, fixed internally with an intramedullary hindfoot nail, with or without an additional plate or cancellous screws. Of the 33 enrolled patients, 9 (27.3%) had stage I, 13 (39.4%) had stage II, and 11 (33.3%) had stage III Charcot arthropathy. The cause of arthropathy was diabetes mellitus in 25 (75.8%) patients. The duration of symptoms ranged from 1 to 120 (median 7) months. The mean follow-up period was 40 (range 12 to 76) months and did not differ markedly among the groups. The hindfoot scores, rate of salvage or amputation, or complication rates did not differ significantly across Eichenholtz stage. For the patients with stage I, II, and III, the preoperative hindfoot score was 50, 49, and 48, respectively (p = .9). The corresponding postoperative scores were 68, 68, and 70 (p = .5). We found no evidence that the effectiveness of hindfoot arthrodesis by stable fixation varied across the Eichenholtz stage of Charcot arthropathy involving ankle and peritalar joint. Furthermore, we found that stable internal fixation and bone grafting using a hindfoot nail results in an 84.84% union rate and salvages the unstable and disabled foot in 90.9% of patients with ankle and peritalar Charcot arthropathy.

Level of Clinical Evidence: 3

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