Salvage, with arthrodesis, in intractable diabetic neuropathic arthropathy of the foot and ankle

J Bone Joint Surg Am. 1993 Jul;75(7):1056-66. doi: 10.2106/00004623-199307000-00012.


Twenty-nine patients who had diabetic neuropathic arthropathy of the foot and ankle were managed with open reduction and arthrodesis of various joints. Rigid internal fixation was used in all but four patients, who had external fixation. All patients had severe instability or a fixed deformity that precluded successful treatment with bracing. The sites of the fracture-dislocations or the neuropathic dislocations were the ankle in twenty-one patients, the subtalar joint in six, and the transverse tarsal joint in two. The ankle-brachial Doppler indices of these patients averaged 0.86 (range, 0.55 to 1.14). The involved extremities were graded at the initial evaluations according to the Wagner classification system for neuropathic ulceration. The grade was 0 in fourteen patients, I in seven, II in two, and III in six. A tibiocalcaneal arthrodesis was performed after a talectomy in eleven patients; a tibiotalar arthrodesis, in eight; a triple arthrodesis, in six; a pantalar arthrodesis, in two; and a tibiotalocalcaneal arthrodesis, in two. Postoperatively, all patients remained non-weight-bearing and wore a below-the-knee plaster cast for two months. Weight-bearing was then begun with the leg in a total-contact plaster cast, and use of the cast was continued for a mean of five months (range, four to fourteen months). Thereafter, a polypropylene ankle-foot orthosis was used permanently. The most recent evaluation of the patients was performed at an average of forty-two months (range, fourteen to sixty-eight months) after the arthrodesis. There were twenty complications in nineteen of the twenty-nine patients, and there were nine pseudarthroses (six tibiocalcaneal, one tibiotalar, and two talonavicular). However, seven of the pseudarthroses were clinically stable. In these patients, the arthrodesis was performed as an alternative to amputation, and salvage was successful in twenty-seven (93 per cent) of the twenty-nine patients.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Ankle Joint / diagnostic imaging
  • Ankle Joint / surgery*
  • Arthrodesis* / methods
  • Arthropathy, Neurogenic / diagnostic imaging
  • Arthropathy, Neurogenic / surgery*
  • Diabetic Neuropathies / diagnostic imaging
  • Diabetic Neuropathies / surgery*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Foot Diseases / diagnostic imaging
  • Foot Diseases / surgery*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Radiography
  • Subtalar Joint / surgery
  • Treatment Outcome