Achieving arthrodesis of the ankle can be difficult in the presence of infection, deformity, poor soft tissues and bone loss. We present a series of 48 patients with complex ankle pathology, treated with the Ilizarov technique. Infection was present in 30 patients and 30 had significant deformity before surgery. Outcome was assessed clinically and with patient-reported outcome measures (Modified American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society (MAOFAS) scale and the Short-Form (SF-36)).
Arthrodesis was achieved in 40 patients with the Ilizarov technique alone and in six further patients with additional surgery. Infection was eradicated in all patients at a mean follow-up of 46.6 months (13 to 162). Successful arthrodesis was less likely in those with comorbidities and in tibiocalcaneal fusion compared with tibiotalar fusion.
These patients had poor general health scores compared with the normal population before surgery. The mean MAOFAS score improved significantly from 24.3 (0 to 90) preoperatively to 56.2 (30 to 90) post-operatively, but there was only a modest improvement in general health; the mean SF-36 improved from 44.8 (19 to 66) to 50.1 (21 to 76). There was a major benefit in terms of pain relief.
Arthrodesis using the Ilizarov technique is an effective treatment for complex ankle pathology, with good clinical outcomes and eradication of infection. However, even after successful arthrodesis general health scores remain limited.