Original Article

HSS Journal

, Volume 3, Issue 1, pp 83-88

First online:

Intramedullary Arthrodesis of the Knee in the Treatment of Sepsis After TKR

  • Carl T. TalmoAffiliated withNew England Baptist Hospital Email author 
  • , James V. BonoAffiliated withNew England Baptist Hospital
  • , Mark P. FiggieAffiliated withDepartment of Orthopedic Surgery, Hospital for Special Surgery
  • , Thomas P. SculcoAffiliated withDepartment of Orthopedic Surgery, Hospital for Special Surgery
  • , Richard S. LaskinAffiliated withDepartment of Orthopedic Surgery, Hospital for Special Surgery
  • , Russell E. WindsorAffiliated withDepartment of Orthopedic Surgery, Hospital for Special Surgery

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Infection is a devastating complication following total knee replacement (TKR). In the majority of cases, single- or two-stage revision has excellent results in eradicating infection and restoring function. Rarely, recurrent infection requires alternative treatments such as resection, amputation, or arthrodesis. A review of infections following TKR treated at two joint replacement centers identified 29 cases of resistant knee sepsis treated with a long intramedullary fusion nail. Clinical outcome and radiographs were reviewed at an average follow-up of 48 months (13–114). After the initial intramedullary arthrodesis union occurred in 24 of 29 patients (83%). The average time to fusion was 6 months (3–18 months). Failures included two cases of nail breakage, one of which subsequently achieved fusion following revision nailing, and three cases of recurrent infection requiring nail removal and permanent resection. At a minimum 2-year follow-up, 28% of the patients that achieved fusion complained of pain in the fused knee, 28% complained of ipsilateral hip pain, and two patients complained of contralateral knee pain. Four of the 25 fused patients (16%) remained nonambulatory after fusion, 17 required walking aids (68%) and only four ambulated unassisted. There was no association between age, number of previous procedures, the use of two-stage versus single stage technique, or infecting organism and failure of arthrodesis. Intramedullary arthrodesis is a viable treatment for refractory infection after TKR. Patients undergoing fusion should be informed of the potential for nonunion, recurrence of infection, pain in the ipsilateral extremity, and the long-term need for walking aids.