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Effectiveness and Safety of Ankle Arthrodesis Versus Arthroplasty

A Prospective Multicenter Study

Daniel C. Norvell, PhD
William R. Ledoux, PhD
Jane B. Shofer, MS
Sigvard T. Hansen, MD
James Davitt, MD
John G. Anderson, MD
Donald Bohay, MD
J. Chris Coetzee, MD
John Maskill, MD
Michael Brage, MD
Michael Houghton, MD
Bruce J. Sangeorzan, MD

Newer designs and techniques of total ankle arthroplasty (TAA) have challenged the assumption of ankle arthrodesis (AA) as the primary treatment for end-stage ankle arthritis. The objective of this study was to compare physical and mental function, ankle-specific function, pain intensity, and rates of revision surgery and minor complications between these 2 procedures and to explore heterogeneous treatment effects due to age, body mass index (BMI), patient sex, comorbidities, and employment on patients treated by 1 of these 2 methods.

This was a multisite prospective cohort study comparing outcomes of surgical treatment of ankle arthritis. Subjects who presented after nonoperative management had failed received either TAA or AA using standard-of-treatment care and rehabilitation. Outcomes included the Foot and Ankle Ability Measure (FAAM), Short Form-36 (SF-36) Physical and Mental Component Summary (PCS and MCS) scores, pain, ankle-related adverse events, and treatment success.

Five hundred and seventeen participants underwent surgery and completed a baseline assessment. At 24 months, the mean improvement in FAAM activities of daily living (ADL) and SF-36 PCS scores was significantly greater in the TAA group than in the AA group, with a difference between groups of 9 points (95% confidence interval [CI] = 3, 15) and 4 points (95% CI = 1, 7), respectively. The crude incidence risks of revision surgery and complications were greater in the AA group; however, these differences were no longer significant after adjusting for age, sex, BMI, and Functional Comorbidity Index (FCI). The treatment success rate was greater after TAA than after AA for those with an FCI of 4 (80% versus 62%) and not fully employed (81% versus 58%) but similar for those with an FCI score of 2 (81% versus 77%) and full-time employment (79% versus 78%).

At 2-year follow-up, both AA and TAA were effective. Improvement in several patient-reported outcomes was greater after TAA than after AA, without a significant difference in the rates of revision surgery and complications.

Level of Evidence:
Therapeutic Level II. See Instructions for Authors for a complete description of levels of evidence.

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