Radiographic and Magnetic Resonance Imaging of the Symptomatic Synthetic Cartilage Implant

Foot Ankle Int. 2020 Jan;41(1):25-30. doi: 10.1177/1071100719877147. Epub 2019 Sep 20.


Background: Synthetic Cartilage Implantation (SCI; Cartiva) is a treatment of hallux rigidus associated with mixed clinical outcomes in the United States. Patients with persistent pain typically undergo diagnostic imaging for evaluation. We aimed to characterize the radiologic findings of SCI and surrounding tissues.

Methods: This is a retrospective review of patients treated using SCI who underwent magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) for persistent pain. Metatarsophalangeal (MTP) joint spaces were compared on plain radiographs of the foot immediately postoperatively and at most recent follow-up. MRI of the foot were assessed for dimensions of the implant, bony channel, and presence of peri-implant fluid. Clinical follow-up, including Patient-Reported Outcome Measures Informational System (PROMIS) scores, satisfaction rating, and revision surgery, was collected. Eighteen cases of symptomatic SCI from 16 patients (13 females, 3 males) were included. All but 1 case involved a 10-mm implant.

Results: Mean satisfaction rating was 2.25 (1-5 Likert scale). PROMIS scores indicated moderate physical dysfunction (41) and moderate pain interference (63). Six of 16 patients (37.5%) underwent revision surgery at average 20.9 months of follow-up. Plain radiographs over a 13.3-month interval showed joint space narrowing of 2 mm medially and 1.6 mm laterally (P < .001). One hundred percent of cases had radiographic evidence of osteoarthritis (OA) progression. MRI studies were obtained on average 11.5 months postoperatively. The implant diameter averaged 9.7 mm, which mismatched the bony channel diameter of 11.2 mm (P < .001). Fourteen of 18 cases had peri-implant fluid. All cases had edema in the metatarsal, proximal phalanx, and soft tissues.

Conclusion: Radiographic loss of MTP joint space and progression of arthritis were present for all cases studied. MRI revealed bony channel widening and a smaller implant, with peri-implant fluid suggesting instability at the implant-bone interface. Persistent edema was observed in soft tissues and bone. Diagnostic imaging of SCI in symptomatic patients demonstrated concerning findings that merit further correlation with patient outcomes.

Level of evidence: Level IV, case series.

Keywords: Cartiva; hallux rigidus; hemiarthroplasty; hydrogel implant; synthetic cartilage implant.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Cartilage
  • Female
  • Hallux Rigidus / diagnostic imaging*
  • Hallux Rigidus / surgery*
  • Hemiarthroplasty / methods*
  • Humans
  • Joint Prosthesis*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Reported Outcome Measures
  • Patient Satisfaction
  • Prosthesis Design
  • Radiography
  • Reoperation / statistics & numerical data
  • Retrospective Studies