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Two-stage arthrodesis for complex, failed, infected total knee arthroplasty

reliable limb salvage with a high initial reoperation rate

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Arthrodesis is rarely used as a salvage procedure for patients with a chronically infected total knee arthroplasty (TKA), and little information is available about the outcome. The aim of this study was to assess the reliability, durability, and safety of this procedure as the definitive treatment for complex, chronically infected TKA, in a current series of patients.


We retrospectively identified 41 patients (41 TKAs) with a complex infected TKA, who were treated between 2002 and 2016 using a deliberate, two-stage knee arthrodesis. Their mean age was 64 years (34 to 88) and their mean body mass index (BMI) was 39 kg/m2 (25 to 79). The mean follow-up was four years (2 to 9). The extensor mechanism (EM) was deficient in 27 patients (66%) and flap cover was required in 14 (34%). Most patients were host grade B (56%) or C (29%), and limb grade 3 (71%), according to the classification of McPherson et al. A total of 12 patients (29%) had polymicrobial infections and 20 (49%) had multi-drug resistant organisms; fixation involved an intramedullary nail in 25 (61%), an external fixator in ten (24%), and dual plates in six (15%).


Survivorship free from amputation, persistent infection, and reoperation, other than removal of an external fixator, at five years was 95% (95% confidence interval (CI) 89% to 100%), 85% (95% CI 75% to 95%), and 64% (95% CI 46% to 82%), respectively. Reoperation, other than removal of an external fixator, occurred in 13 patients (32%). After the initial treatment, radiological nonunion developed in ten knees (24%). Nonunion was significantly correlated with persistent infection (p = 0.006) and external fixation (p = 0.005). Of those patients who achieved limb salvage, 34 (87%) remained mobile and 31 (79%) had ‘absent’ or ‘minimal’ pain ratings.


Knee arthrodesis using a two-stage protocol achieved a survivorship free from amputation for persistent infection of 95% at five years with 87% of patients were mobile at final follow-up. However, early reoperation was common (32%). This is not surprising as this series included worst-case infected TKAs in which two-thirds of the patients had a disrupted EM, one-third required flap cover, and most had polymicrobial or multi-drug resistant organisms.

Cite this article: Bone Joint J 2020;102-B(6 Supple A):170–175.

Correspondence should be sent to Kevin I. Perry. E-mail:

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