Prospective, Randomized, Multi-centered Clinical Trial Assessing Safety and Efficacy of a Synthetic Cartilage Implant Versus First Metatarsophalangeal Arthrodesis in Advanced Hallux Rigidus

Foot Ankle Int. 2016 May;37(5):457-69. doi: 10.1177/1071100716635560. Epub 2016 Feb 27.


Background: Although a variety of great toe implants have been tried in an attempt to maintain toe motion, the majority have failed with loosening, malalignment/dislocation, implant fragmentation and bone loss. In these cases, salvage to arthrodesis is more complicated and results in shortening of the ray or requires structural bone graft to reestablish length. This prospective study compared the efficacy and safety of this small (8/10 mm) hydrogel implant to the gold standard of a great toe arthrodesis for advanced-stage hallux rigidus.

Methods: In this prospective, randomized non-inferiority study, patients from 12 centers in Canada and the United Kingdom were randomized (2:1) to a synthetic cartilage implant or first metatarsophalangeal (MTP) joint arthrodesis. VAS pain scale, validated outcome measures (Foot and Ankle Ability Measure [FAAM] sport scale), great toe active dorsiflexion motion, secondary procedures, radiographic assessment, and safety parameters were evaluated. Analysis was performed using intent-to-treat (ITT) and modified ITT (mITT) methodology. The primary endpoint for the study consisted of a single composite endpoint using the 3 primary study outcomes (pain, function, and safety). The individual subject's outcome was considered a success if all of the following criteria were met: (1) improvement (decrease) from baseline in VAS pain of ≥30% at 12 months; (2) maintenance of function from baseline in FAAM sports subscore at 12 months; and (3) absence of major safety events at 2 years. The proportion of successes in each group was determined and 1-sided 95% confidence interval for the difference between treatment groups was calculated. Noninferiority of the implant to arthrodesis was considered statistically significant if the 1-sided 95% lower confidence interval was greater than the equivalence limit (<15%). A total of 236 patients were initially enrolled; 17 patients withdrew prior to randomization, 17 patients withdrew after randomization, and 22 were nonrandomized training patients, leaving 152 implant and 50 arthrodesis patients. Standard demographics and baseline outcomes were similar for both groups.

Results: VAS pain scores decreased significantly in both the implant and arthrodesis groups from baseline at 12 and 24 months. Similarly, the FAAM sports and activity of daily living subscores improved significantly at 12 and 24 months in both groups. First MTP active dorsiflexion motion improvement was 6.2 degrees (27.3%) after implant placement and was maintained at 24 months. Subsequent secondary surgeries occurred in 17 (11.2%) implant patients (17 procedures) and 6 (12.0%) arthrodesis patients (7 procedures). Fourteen (9.2%) implants were removed and converted to arthrodesis, and 6 (12.0%) arthrodesis patients (7 procedures [14%]) had isolated screws or plate and screw removal. There were no cases of implant fragmentation, wear, or bone loss. When analyzing the ITT and mITT population for the primary composite outcome of VAS pain, function (FAAM sports), and safety, there was statistical equivalence between the implant and arthrodesis groups.

Conclusion: A prospective, randomized (2:1), controlled, noninferiority clinical trial was performed to compare the safety and efficacy of a small synthetic cartilage bone implant to first MTP arthrodesis in patients with advanced-stage hallux rigidus. This study showed equivalent pain relief and functional outcomes. The synthetic implant was an excellent alternative to arthrodesis in patients who wished to maintain first MTP motion. The percentage of secondary surgical procedures was similar between groups. Less than 10% of the implant group required revision to arthrodesis at 2 years.

Level of evidence: Level I, prospective randomized study.

Keywords: arthritis; arthrodesis; clinical trial; forefoot disorders; hallux disorders; implant.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Arthrodesis* / methods
  • Cartilage
  • Hallux Rigidus / surgery*
  • Humans
  • Joint Prosthesis
  • Metatarsophalangeal Joint / surgery*
  • Middle Aged
  • Pain / surgery
  • Prospective Studies
  • Prostheses and Implants*
  • Prosthesis Design
  • Reoperation