Outcomes of Joint-Preserving Surgery in RA-Affected Feet

Dramatic improvements in medical treatment of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) have led to marked reductions in joint damage and deformities. Consequently, surgical methods for treating RA-related foot problems have gradually evolved from joint-sacrificing to joint-preserving procedures. In a recent issue of The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery, Yano et al. reported on outcomes of 105 feet in RA patients treated with joint-preserving methods followed up for a mean of 6 years.

What the Researchers Did:

  • Performed a proximal rotational closing-wedge osteotomy of the first metatarsal and modified shortening oblique osteotomies of the lesser metatarsals
  • Recorded Self-Administered Foot Evaluation Questionnaire (SAFE-Q) scores preoperatively and at latest follow-up
  • Measured hallux valgus angle (HVA), intermetatarsal angle (IMA), and medial sesamoid position before surgery, 3 months after surgery, and at the latest follow-up
  • Tracked delayed wound healing, hallux valgus recurrence, nonunion, and reoperations
  • Calculated Kaplan-Meier survivorship with reoperation as the endpoint

What the Researchers Found:

  • Surgery was associated with significantly improved median SAFE-Q scores, relative to preoperative values.
  • The average HVA, IMA, and grade of medial sesamoid positioning decreased significantly, compared with preoperative measurements.
  • Kaplan-Meier survivorship at 7 years was 89.5%.
  • Delayed wound healing was found in 20% of the feet (all wounds healed with nonoperative treatment), hallux valgus recurrence in 10.5% of the feet, and reoperation in 10.5% of the feet.

Yano et al. emphasize several advantages of joint-sparing over joint-sacrificing surgery: preserved range of motion, stability of the metatarsophalangeal joint, and improved plantar-pressure distribution. However, these advantages and the “satisfactory” long-term outcomes noted above come with substantial complications that foot-and-ankle surgeons will strive to address in the future.

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