Infected and deformed neuropathic feet and ankles are serious challenges for surgical management. In this study we present our experience in performing ankle arthrodesis in a closed manner, without surgical preparation of the joint surfaces by cartilaginous debridement, but instead using an Ilizarov ring fixator (IRF) for deformity correction and facilitating fusion, in arthritic neuropathic ankles with associated osteomyelitis.
We retrospectively reviewed all the patients who underwent closed ankle arthrodesis (CAA) in Ilizarov Scientific Centre from 2013 to 2018 (Group A) and compared them with a similar group of patients (Group B) who underwent open ankle arthrodesis (OAA). We then divided the neuropathic patients into three arthritic subgroups: Charcot joint, Charcot-Maire-Tooth disease, and post-traumatic arthritis. All arthrodeses were performed by using an Ilizarov ring fixator. All patients were followed up clinically and radiologically for a minimum of 12 months to assess union and function.
The union rate for Group A was 81% (17/21) while it was 84.6% (33/39) for Group B. All the nonunions in Group A underwent revision with an open technique and achieved 100% union. Mean duration of IRF was 71.5 days (59 to 82) in Group A and 69 days (64.8 to 77.7) in Group B. The American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society (AOFAS) hindfoot score was similar in both groups. The postoperative hospital stay was shorter in Group A (21 days (SD 8)) than Group B (28 days (SD 9)). In the latter Group there were more problems with wound healing and greater requirement for antibiotic treatment. The mean operating time was 40 minutes (SD 9) in Group A compared to 80 minutes (SD 13) in Group B. Recurrence of infection occurred in 19% (4/21) and 15.5% (6/39) for Group A and Group B respectively.
We found CAA using an IRF to be an effective method for ankle arthrodesis in infected neuropathic foot and ankle cases and afforded comparable results to open methods. Due to its great advantages, Ilizarov method of CAA should always be considered for neuropathic ankles in suitable patients.
Cite this article: Bone Joint J 2020;102-B(4):470–477.