BACKGROUND: Contact areas and peak pressures in the posterior facet of the subtalar and the talonavicular joints were measured in cadaver lower limbs for both the normal limb and after fixation of the tibiotalar joint.
METHODS: Six joints were fixed in neutral, in 5-7 degrees of varus and of valgus. Ten degrees of equinus angulation was also studied. Each position of fixation was tested independently. Neutral was defined as fixation without coronal or sagittal plane angulation compared with prefixation alignment of the specimen.
RESULTS: When compared with normal unfused condition, peak pressures increased and contact areas decreased in the subtalar joint for specimens fixed in neutral, varus, and valgus. However, the change in peak pressure for neutral fusion compared with normal control was not statistically significant (P > 0.07). Peak pressures for varus and valgus fixation were significantly different from normal (P < 0.001). Contact areas for all positions of fixation were significantly different from normal (P < 0.001). Coronal plane angulation, however, also resulted in significantly lower contact areas compared with neutral fixation (P < 0.001).
CONCLUSION: Contact areas and peak pressures in the talonavicular joint did not appear to be substantially affected by tibiotalar fixation with coronal plane angulation. Equinus fixation qualitatively increased contact areas and peak pressures in the talonavicular and posterior facet of the subtalar joint. Neutral alignment of the tibiotalar joint in the coronal and sagittal planes altered subtalar and talonavicular joint contact characteristics the least compared with normal controls. Therefore, ankle fusion in the neutral position would be expected to most closely preserve normal joint biomechanics and may limit the progression of degenerative arthrosis of the subtalar joint.
Copyright © 1997 (Foot Ankle Int. Dec;18(12):792-797) by the American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society, Inc., originally published in Foot & Ankle International, and reproduced here with permission.