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Ankle Fusion in a High Risk Population: An Assessment of Nonunion Risk Factors

Foot Ankle Int. 1999 Aug;20(8):491-496
Perlman MH, Thordarson DB


BACKGROUND: Between July 1992 and April 1996, 88 ankle fusions were performed at our institution. Sixty-seven of these had adequate follow-up for evaluation for union of the fusion, including adequate records and/or radiographs. The average age of patients was 43 years. There were 37 men and 24 women. 

METHODS: The charts were reviewed to determine what level of trauma had resulted in posttraumatic arthritis (low energy, high energy, or open fracture). Alcohol use, drug abuse, diabetes, peripheral vascular disease, psychiatric history, smoking, or technical problems were also assessed. A chi-square analysis was used to evaluate the statistical significance.

RESULTS: Nineteen of sixty-seven ankle fusions progressed to nonunion (28%). Eighty-five percent of the patients had posttraumatic arthritis. Among 17 patients with a history of open trauma, nine patients developed a nonunion (P < 0.03). A trend toward significance was noted for patients who were smokers, drank alcohol, had diabetes, had a psychiatric disorder, or used illegal drugs. 

CONCLUSION: Even with current techniques, this study demonstrates that a high risk population in a trauma center is at risk for nonunion after an ankle fusion caused by multiple risk factors, including a history of open trauma, tobacco use, alcohol use, illegal drug use, a history of psychiatric disorders, or diabetes.

Copyright © 1999 (Foot Ankle Int. Aug;20(8):491-496) by the American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society, Inc., originally published in Foot & Ankle International, and reproduced here with permission.