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Perioperative Complication Rate of Total Ankle Replacement is Reduced by Surgeon Experience

Foot Ankle Int. 2004 May;25(5):283-289
Haskell A, Mann RA


BACKGROUND: Recent studies suggest the perioperative complication rate of total ankle arthroplasty decreases as a surgeon becomes familiar with the procedure. This study tests the hypothesis that the number of perioperative adverse events will decrease as surgeon experience with total ankle replacement increases. 

METHODS: Ten surgeons completed retrospective chart and radiographic reviews of their first 10 cases as well as 10 subsequent cases of the Scandinavian Total Ankle Replacement (STAR). Not all surgeons completed 10 cases within the allotted time periods, and two patients were excluded for less than 3-month follow-up, resulting in 187 cases for review. The surgeons performed an average of 12.8 (range, 0–61) STARs between these two time periods. Cases were divided into Early Group if they were among the first five STARs a surgeon performed and Late Group if they were after the first five. 

RESULTS: The average patient age was 60.4 ± 12.8 years. The etiology of arthrosis included 96 (51%) of 187 posttraumatic, 49 (26%) idiopathic, and 33 (18%) rheumatoid. Patients in Early Group had a 3.1 times greater chance of having a perioperative adverse event (95% CI 1.6–6.1, p < .001), and a 3.2 times greater chance of having a perioperative wound problem (95% CI 1.5–6.8, p = .002) than patients in Late Group. Patients in Early Group took 1 week longer to heal their wounds than patients in Late Group (4.5 vs. 3.5 weeks, p = .046). 

CONCLUSIONS: This study shows a decrease in the perioperative adverse event rate commensurate with surgeon experience with STAR. In contrast to other reports, this study was unable to show a decrease in the number of perioperative fractures with increasing surgeon experience. This information is important for planning how best to train surgeons new to total ankle replacement and for patient counseling regarding the potential risks of the procedure.

Copyright © 2004 (Foot Ankle Int. May;25(5):283-289) by the American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society, Inc., originally published in Foot & Ankle International, and reproduced here with permission.