We report the incidence and intensity of persistent pain in patients with an otherwise uncomplicated total ankle replacement (TAR). Arthroscopic debridement was performed in selected cases and the clinical outcome was analysed.
Among 120 uncomplicated TARs, there was persistent pain with a mean visual analogue scale (VAS) of 2.7 (0 to 8). The intensity of pain decreased in 115 ankles (95.8%). Exercise or walking for more than 30 minutes was the most common aggravating factor (62 ankles, 68.1%). The character of the pain was most commonly described as dull (50 ankles, 54.9%) and located on the medial aspect of the joint (43 ankles, 47.3%).
A total of seven ankles (5.8%) underwent subsequent arthroscopy. These patients had local symptoms and a VAS for pain ≥ 7 on exertion. Impingement with fibrosis and synovitis was confirmed. After debridement, the median VAS decreased from 7 to 3 and six patients were satisfied. The median VAS for pain and the American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society score of the ankles after debridement was similar to that of the uncomplicated TARs (p = 0.496 and p = 0.066, respectively).
Although TAR reduces the intensity of pain, residual pain is not infrequent even in otherwise uncomplicated TARs and soft-tissue impingement is the possible cause.