Complex ankle arthrodesis: Review of the literature.
Complex ankle arthrodesis is defined as an ankle fusion that is at high risk of delayed and nonunion secondary to patient comorbidities and/or local ankle/hindfoot factors. Risk factors that contribute to defining this group of patients can be divided into systemic factors and local factors pertaining to co-existing ankle or hindfoot pathology. Orthopaedic surgeons should be aware of these risk factors and their association with patients' outcomes after complex ankle fusions. Both external and internal fixations have demonstrated positive outcomes with regards to achieving stable fixation and minimizing infection. Recent innovations in the application of biophysical agents and devices have shown promising results as adjuncts for healing. Both osteoconductive and osteoinductive agents have been effectively utilized as biological adjuncts for bone healing with low complication rates. Devices such as pulsed electromagnetic field bone stimulators, internal direct current stimulators and low-intensity pulsed ultrasound bone stimulators have been associated with faster bone healing and improved outcomes scores when compared with controls. The aim of this review article is to present a comprehensive approach to the management of complex ankle fusions, including the use of biophysical adjuncts for healing and a proposed algorithm for their treatment.