Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research ®

A Publication of The Association of Bone and Joint Surgeons ®

Hindfoot Arthrodesis with the Blade Plate: Increased Risk of Complications and Nonunion in a Complex Patient Population

Troy M. Gorman MD, Timothy C. Beals MD, Florian Nickisch MD, Charles L. Saltzman MD, Mikayla Lyman BS, Alexej Barg MD

Abstract

Background

Previous hindfoot surgeries present a unique challenge to hindfoot arthrodesis, as the patients may have multiple incisions around the hindfoot. In high-risk patients with compromised soft tissues, a posterior approach can provide an alternative for a fresh soft tissue plane for the surgery. The use of a blade plate construct is widely accepted; however, there are limited data supporting the use of a posterior approach.

Questions/purposes

We asked (1) what proportion of patients treated with this technique achieved osseous union; (2) what complications were observed; (3) were any patient-demographic or health-related factors associated with the likelihood that a patient would have a complication develop?

Methods

Between December 2001 and July 2014, 42 patients received a posterior blade plate. During the period in question, indications for hindfoot arthrodesis using posterior blade fixation were subtalar osteoarthritis below an ankle fusion, malunion or nonunion, failed tibiotalocalcaneal arthrodesis attributable to nonunion of the tibiotalar and/or subtalar joint; or tibiotalar and subtalar osteoarthritis in patients with impaired bone or soft tissue quality (particularly if the soft tissue problem was anterior). During that period, all patients who met those indications were treated with a posterior blade plate. Forty (95%) were included in this study, and two were lost to followup before the 1-year minimum required by the study. Demographics (age, gender, BMI, smoking status, and comorbidities) and surgical data (indication, previous treatment, and additional procedures) were analyzed. Of the 40 patients included, 27 (68%) were male and 13 (33%) were female, with a median of two previous hindfoot or ankle surgeries (range, 0–9 surgeries). The mean age of the patients was 56 ± 13 years. Followup averaged 47 ± 28 months (range, 14–137 months). Twenty-eight of 40 (70%) patients had a tibiotalocalcaneal arthrodesis as a primary (n = 6), primary staged (n = 10), revision (n = 9), or revision staged (n = 3) procedure. Eleven of 40 patients (28%) underwent ankle arthrodesis (primary n = 7, revision n = 4). One of the 40 patients (3%) underwent tibiotalocalcaneal arthrodesis for a failed total ankle arthroplasty. Weightbearing radiographs were used to assess fusion. Osseous fusion was defined as visible trabecular bridging on the lateral and AP ankle views within 6 postoperative months. Delayed union was defined as osseous fusion occurring between 6 and 12 months. Nonunion was defined as no visible trabecular bridging at the latest followup (longer than 12 months). Clinic and surgery notes were reviewed for complications. Univariate analysis was performed to compare patient groups: patients with solid union versus nonunion, and patients with versus without complications.

Results

Twenty-nine of 40 (73%) patients had osseous fusion within 6 postoperative months. Four of 40 (10%) patients had a delayed union between 6 and 12 months, and seven of the 40 (18%) patients had nonunions, which occurred in the ankle (n = 3), subtalar (n = 3), or both (n = 1) joints. There were 26 complications observed: 18 (69%) were considered major and eight (31%) were minor. With the numbers available, we did not identify any demographic or surgical factors associated with complications, delayed union, or nonunion.

Conclusions

The proportion of patients treated with a posterior blade plate hindfoot fusion who had delayed union or nonunion is greater than that reported for patients in other series who underwent primary hindfoot arthrodesis with other approaches, and the proportion of patients who had complications develop is high. Further studies are needed to address alternative approaches to achieve hindfoot fusion in patients with complex hindfoot problems.

Level of Evidence

Level IV, therapeutic study.

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