Knee arthrodesis using a customised modular intramedullary nail in failed infected total knee arthroplasty

S Putman, G Kern, E Senneville, E Beltrand, H Migaud
Orthopaedics & Traumatology, Surgery & Research: OTSR 2013, 99 (4): 391-8

BACKGROUND: Knee arthrodesis is used to treat patients with failed infected total knee arthroplasty (TKA). Among fixation methods, intramedullary nailing increases the chances of bone union but may carry a risk of infection around the nail. This risk is not well understood, because available case-series studies were not confined to patients with knee infection.

HYPOTHESIS: Infection recurrence rates after knee arthrodesis with intramedullary nailing used to treat failed infected TKA are similar to those seen with other fixation methods.

METHODS: We retrospectively reviewed 31 cases of knee arthrodesis with fixation by a modular intramedullary nail performed at a subspecialized center treating complex osteoarticular infections (CRIOAC). The antibiotic regimen was determined based on multidisciplinary discussions and microbiological studies of preoperative and intraoperative specimens. Mean follow-up was 50 ± 22 months (range, 28-90 months). Arthrodesis was performed in one stage (n=6) or two stages (n=25). Success was defined as presence, after a postoperative follow-up of at least 24 months, based on the following criteria: normal erythrocyte sedimentation rate and/or C-reactive protein, no wound inflammation or sinus tract, no revision surgery, and no antibiotic treatment. Bone union was not a criterion for a successful arthrodesis procedure.

RESULTS: Removal of the fixation material was required in three patients and long-term palliative antibiotic therapy in three patients (fixation material in place with repeated positive specimens) for a total of six failures due to infection (6/31, 19.4%). None of the patients experienced mechanical failure (no breakage of the material and no fixation failure of the nails designed to allow osteointegration). The mean leg length discrepancy was 10 ± 10 mm (range, 5-34 mm) and the mean Oxford score was 41 ± 11 (range, 23-58). The 50-month rate of arthrodesis survival to revision surgery for nail removal was 77.8 ± 4% and the 50-month rate of arthrodesis survival without revision surgery for persistent infection was 74.6 ± 4.2%.

DISCUSSION: The infection recurrence rate was higher than with other fixation methods but remained acceptable (19.4%). Use of a modular intramedullary nail prevented major leg-length discrepancies, which are often poorly accepted by the patients, and allowed immediate weight bearing despite the often severe bone loss.

LEVEL OF EVIDENCE: Level IV, retrospective cohort study.

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