Background: Tibiocalcaneal arthrodesis with retrograde intramedullary nailing has gained acceptance as a salvage procedure for a multitude of ankle and hindfoot disorders and is frequently used in Charcot arthropathy of the ankle. Because of the severe osteopenia often associated with Charcot arthropathy of the ankle, an area of stress concentration leading to stress fracture at the proximal aspect of the nail has been identified.
Methods: To determine if this potential complication can be avoided, nine consecutive diabetic individuals with Charcot arthropathy of the ankle had ankle arthrodesis with a longer retrograde femoral nail. The average age of the patients was 52.3 years. Their average weight was 102.6 kg.
Results: Fusion was evident on radiographs in all nine patients at an average of 10.5 weeks. None of the patients developed a stress fracture or evidence of stress concentration at the proximal metaphyseal tip of the nails. One wound infection resolved after debridement and antibiotic therapy, and one postoperative hematoma resolved without surgery. At an average 32-month followup, all patients were ambulatory, using commercially available therapeutic footwear. None had developed a new foot ulcer, infection, or new episode of Charcot arthropathy.
Conclusions: The use of a retrograde femoral nail for ankle arthrodesis in patients with Charcot arthropathy appears to decrease the risk of stress fracture compared with shorter nails without increasing the risk of other complications.