Survey on the need for bone graft in foot and ankle fusion surgery

Foot Ankle Int. 2013 Dec;34(12):1629-33. doi: 10.1177/1071100713503815. Epub 2013 Aug 28.


Background: Generally, autologous bone graft is felt to be an important treatment adjunct in the presence of structural deformity, surface irregularities, defects (due to trauma, surgery, or degenerative changes), or underlying comorbidities that predispose the patient to healing challenges. This study assessed the prognostic and predictive factors used in the clinical decision making for bone graft supplementation in foot and ankle fusion surgery.

Methods: Utilizing standard survey research methodology, key-informant interviews, pretesting, and pilot testing; a survey was constructed. The survey consisted of a web-based 5-point Likert-type scale (never, seldom, sometimes, almost always, always) listing 14 clinical and 11 radiologic criteria that may influence the use of autologous bone grafting or other biologic augmentation in foot and ankle surgery. This survey was sent to Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Surgeons in North America and Canada.

Results: A total of 48 foot and ankle surgeons completed the blinded survey (73% response rate). More than 70% of responders felt bone graft was almost always (AA) or always (A) indicated in prior nonunion of the indicated joint (96%). Fewer than 50% of respondents felt poor soft tissue integrity (20%), prior foot and ankle infection (20%), and current foot and ankle infection (4%) needed bone graft. Radiologic factors marked as AA or A in over 70% of responders include radiographic evidence of nonunion (96%), avascular necrosis (87%), and others. Factors chosen as AA or A by fewer than 50% of surgeons include prior adjacent joint fusions (47%), intra-articular deformity (31%), and extra-articular deformity (13%).

Conclusions: There was some uniformity of agreement on the number of both clinical and radiologic factors that prompt a surgeon to utilize autologous bone graft to try to avoid the complication of nonunion. Surgeons may wish to consider these factors when making a decision on the use of bone graft to supplement fusion.

Keywords: arthrodesis; bone graft; fusion; indications; survey.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Ankle Joint / diagnostic imaging
  • Ankle Joint / surgery*
  • Arthrodesis / methods*
  • Autografts
  • Bone Transplantation*
  • Decision Making
  • Foot Joints / diagnostic imaging
  • Foot Joints / surgery*
  • Humans
  • Orthopedics
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians'*
  • Prognosis
  • Radiography
  • Risk Factors