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The Comparative Morphology of Idiopathic Ankle Osteoarthritis
Kristen L. Schaefer, BS1; Bruce J. Sangeorzan, MD1; Michael J. Fassbind, MS1; William R. Ledoux, PhD1
1 Department of Veterans Affairs, RR&D Center of Excellence for Limb Loss Prevention and Prosthetic Engineering, VA Puget Sound Health Care System, ms 151, 1660 South Columbian Way, Seattle, WA 98108. E-mail address for B.J. Sangeorzan: bsangeor@u.washington.edu
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Investigation performed at the Department of Veterans Affairs, Rehabilitation Research & Development Center of Excellence for Limb Loss Prevention and Prosthetic Engineering, VA Puget Sound Health Care System, Seattle, Washington

Disclosure: One or more of the authors received payments or services, either directly or indirectly (i.e., via his or her institution), from a third party in support of an aspect of this work. In addition, one or more of the authors, or his or her institution, has had a financial relationship, in the thirty-six months prior to submission of this work, with an entity in the biomedical arena that could be perceived to influence or have the potential to influence what is written in this work. No author has had any other relationships, or has engaged in any other activities, that could be perceived to influence or have the potential to influence what is written in this work. The complete Disclosures of Potential Conflicts of Interest submitted by authors are always provided with the online version of the article.

Copyright © 2012 by The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, Inc.
J Bone Joint Surg Am, 2012 Dec 19;94(24):e181 1-6. doi: 10.2106/JBJS.L.00063
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Osteoarthritis is the most common joint disease and the leading cause of chronic disability in the U.S. However, symptomatic osteoarthritis at the ankle occurs nine times less frequently than at the knee and hip, even though the ankle experiences greater pressure and is the most commonly injured joint in the human body. This study sought to quantify the shape and coverage of the talar and tibial articular surfaces by comparing the three-dimensional morphology of the ankle in patients with ankle osteoarthritis and in those without arthritis, including a subset of different foot shapes.


We created three-dimensional models of the joint surfaces of ankles with and without arthritis. We fit cylinders to the joint surfaces, and measured the radius of the tibial and talar articular surfaces, the tibial coverage angle of the talus, and the degree of joint skew. We hypothesized that these measurements would be different between those with and without ankle osteoarthritis and among foot types. We evaluated a total of 108 limbs.


The mean tibial and talar radii were significantly higher and the mean coverage angle was significantly lower in feet with ankle osteoarthritis than in all other foot categories. The mean coronal skew in limbs with ankle osteoarthritis was significantly higher than in the neutral and flatfoot groups. The high arched feet had several significantly different skew angles from other foot types. No significant differences in joint morphology measures between neutrally aligned feet and flatfeet were found.


Ankles with osteoarthritis had larger tibial and talar radii, a smaller coverage angle, and larger skew angles than ankles without osteoarthritis. Together, these findings suggest a flatter ankle joint with less stability, depth, and containment and reduced articular constraint and support.

Clinical Relevance: 

These findings offer an objective standard that supports the principle that ankle osteoarthritis pathology is related to loss of ankle joint containment.

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    These activities have been planned and implemented in accordance with the Essential Areas and policies of the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME) through the joint sponsorship of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons and The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, Inc. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons is accredited by the ACCME to provide continuing medical education for physicians.
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