Arthroscopic Synovectomy of the Ankle in Rheumatoid Arthritis

Published:November 12, 2012DOI:


      To evaluate the outcome of arthroscopic synovectomy of the ankle joint in patients with early-stage rheumatoid arthritis (RA).


      Between 2005 and 2009, 18 consecutive patients with RA involving the ankle underwent arthroscopic synovectomy. Pain was measured using a visual analog scale (VAS), and clinical outcome was determined by calculating the American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society (AOFAS) Ankle-Hindfoot Scale score with a mean follow-up of 5 years (60 months). Assessments were performed preoperatively, at 6 and 12 months postoperatively, and then yearly thereafter. Clinical success was defined as the absence of synovitis symptoms or when patients demonstrated good or excellent outcomes (AOFAS Ankle-Hindfoot Scale score ≥80) with >50% improvement in VAS score for pain. Demographic, laboratory, and radiological variables were evaluated to determine possible factors predicting clinical outcome.


      VAS and AOFAS scores were significantly improved at the final follow-up (60 months; P < .0001). The greatest improvements in clinical scores were observed after 12 months; thereafter, they steadily declined. Of the 18 patients examined, 14 (77.8%) were considered to have had clinical success with no reintervention. Variables predictive of clinical success were short duration of symptoms (P = .042) and minimal radiographic changes based on the Larsen grading system (P = .030).


      Arthroscopic synovectomy is a safe and successful procedure in ankle joints affected by RA. The best clinical outcomes are achieved when the procedure is performed early in the disease course and when there is no evidence of cartilage degeneration.

      Level of Evidence

      Level IV, prognostic case series.
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