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Charcot arthropathy of the foot and ankle associated with rheumatoid arthritis.

BACKGROUND: Diabetic peripheral neuropathy is now well recognized as the most common cause of Charcot arthropathy of the foot and ankle, but it may be associated with other peripheral neuropathies. While not well known, it is well documented that rheumatoid arthritis is correlated with peripheral neuropathy. However, despite rheumatoid neuropathy, Charcot arthropathy has never been associated with rheumatoid arthritis. We report a series of Charcot arthropathy patients with concomitant rheumatoid arthritis.

METHODS: The medical records of patients treated between 1986 and 2009 with Charcot arthropathy and rheumatoid arthritis were reviewed. Recorded data included neuropathy risk factors, medications, history of ulcerations, ambulatory status, shoe wear, and treatment course. Radiographs of Charcot joints were categorized according to the Brodsky anatomic classification. Patient care was based on published treatment algorithms, emphasizing accommodative, nonoperative treatment with selective surgical interventions. Surgery was indicated for recalcitrant, nonhealing lesions of the soft tissue and/or unbraceable, nonplantigrade feet. A successful outcome was considered an ambulatory patient without amputation and a closed skin envelope at last follow-up.

RESULTS: Four men and 16 women met the diagnostic criteria, resulting in 33 feet in the series. Average age was 61 years, and average follow-up was 4.3 years. In addition to rheumatoid arthritis, 4 patients (7 feet) had hypothyroidism, 4 patients (6 feet) had diabetes, 1 patient (2 feet) had megaloblastic anemia and diabetes, and 1 patient (1 foot) had hypothyroidism and diabetes; however, 17 feet (52%) had no known sources for neuropathy. Charcot involvement was type 1-midfoot in 21 feet (64%), type 2-hindfoot in 7 (21%), type 3a-ankle in 4 (12%), and type 3b-calcaneus in 1 (3%). Twenty-three feet (70%) were treated with conservative modalities. Ten feet (30%) required 15 surgeries, of which an exostectomy was the most common procedure. Of the 33 feet, 3 had persistent ulcerations and 1 underwent major amputation, representing 4 failures.

CONCLUSIONS: Raising awareness within the orthopaedic community, we report a Charcot arthropathy population with a concomitant rheumatoid arthritis diagnosis, emphasizing a relationship between the 2 diseases. Through a conservative treatment regimen combined with selective surgical interventions, satisfactory outcomes were achieved in 88% of the rheumatoid Charcot feet. While several patients had additional neuropathy sources which could cause Charcot arthropathy (eg, diabetes), the majority of feet had no etiologies accounting for neuropathy or neuroarthropathy except rheumatoid arthritis. Further study is required to expand on this relationship between the 2 diseases.

LEVEL OF EVIDENCE: Level IV, retrospective case series.

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