Investigating the relationship between ankle arthrodesis and adjacent-joint arthritis in the hindfoot: a systematic review

J Bone Joint Surg Am. 2015 Mar 18;97(6):513-20. doi: 10.2106/JBJS.N.00426.


Background: Ankle arthrodesis traditionally has been regarded as the treatment of choice for many patients with end-stage ankle arthritis. However, a major reported risk of ankle arthrodesis is adjacent-joint degeneration. There are conflicting views in the literature as to the causative link between ankle arthrodesis and progression to adjacent-joint arthritis. Recent studies have challenged the causative link between arthrodesis and adjacent-joint arthritis, purporting that preexisting adjacent-joint arthritis is present in many patients. The aim of the present study was to systematically review the available literature to determine if there is sufficient evidence to support either hypothesis.

Methods: A literature search of the EMBASE and PubMed/MEDLINE databases (1974 to present) was performed. A total of twenty-four studies were included for review. The studies were reviewed, and the relevant information was extracted, including research methodology, postoperative outcomes in the adjacent joints of the foot, and whether pre-arthrodesis radiographs and medical records were available for analysis.

Results: The twenty-four manuscripts included eighteen clinical studies, five biomechanical studies, and one gait-analysis study. The majority of biomechanical studies showed altered biomechanics in the fused ankle; however, there was no clear consensus as to whether these findings were causes of adjacent-joint arthritis. In studies assessing clinical outcomes, the reported prevalence of subtalar joint arthritis ranged from 24% to 100% and the prevalence of talonavicular and calcaneocuboid arthritis ranged from 18% to 77%. Correlation between imaging findings of arthritis in adjacent joints and patient symptoms was not established in a number of the clinical studies reviewed.

Conclusions: There is no true consensus in the literature as to the effects of ankle arthrodesis on biomechanics or whether ankle arthrodesis leads to adjacent-joint arthritis. Similarly, a correlation between postoperative imaging findings and clinical presentation in this cohort of patients has not been conclusively demonstrated.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Ankle Joint*
  • Arthritis / etiology*
  • Arthritis / surgery*
  • Arthrodesis / adverse effects*
  • Humans
  • Tarsal Joints*