Ankle Arthrodesis with Free Vascularized Fibula Autograft Using Saphenous Vein Grafts: A Case Series

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Background:In select high-risk cases of ankle arthrodesis, conventional techniques may lead to a high incidence of failure because of a combination of multiple operations; high risk of infection; avascular, often bulky allografts; and poor soft-tissue quality. In high-risk distal limb salvage, the authors have performed ankle arthrodesis using a free vascularized fibula graft from the ipsilateral limb with saphenous vein grafts.Methods:The authors present data from six patients. The cause of the defect was avascular necrosis of the talus (n = 4), osteomyelitis (n = 1), and failed total ankle replacement (n = 1). The ipsilateral fibula was used in all cases as a free vascularized graft. Nonviable bone and soft tissue were débrided, and the fibula was shortened to size and impacted into the cavitary space spanning the distance between the tibia, talus, and calcaneus. The pedicle distally was anastomosed to saphenous vein grafts and proximally anastomosed to the divided peroneal vessels.Results:The flap success rate was 83 percent (n = 5). The complication rate was 83 percent; complications included flap loss (intraoperative arterial thrombosis), loss of skin island, hematoma, and arterial thrombosis. Despite one flap failure and a high complication rate, successful union was obtained in all patients. All patients achieved full weight-bearing status by a mean of 4 months after surgery (range, 3 to 7 months). There were no amputations.Conclusions:Vascularized free fibula graft is a reliable option for ankle arthrodesis in complex salvage situations. Using a saphenous vein graft to perform the anastomosis with the divided peroneal vessels proximally should be considered.

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