Outcomes After Arthroscopic Surgery for Anterior Impingement in the Ankle Joint in the General and Athletic Populations: Does Sex Play a Role?

Background: Although anterior ankle impingement is a common pathology within the athletic population, there have been limited data evaluating outcomes of arthroscopic intervention and whether patient sex affects treatment outcomes.

Purpose: To provide an overview of the clinical outcomes of arthroscopic procedures used as a treatment strategy for anterior ankle impingement and to determine if patient sex affects outcomes.

Study design: Systematic review.

Methods: A systematic literature search of the MEDLINE, Embase, and Cochrane databases was performed during August 2019. The following combination of search terms was utilized: “ankle,” “impingement,” “talus,” “osteophyte,” “arthroscopy,” “surgery,” “procedures,” and “treatment.” Two reviewers independently performed data extraction.

Results: A total of 28 articles evaluating 1506 patients were included in this systematic review. Among the studies, 60% (17/28) and 14% (4/28) assessed anterolateral and anteromedial impingement, respectively. Good to excellent results were reported after arthroscopy in patients with anterior ankle impingement, with a success rate of 81.04%. All studies that evaluated functional outcomes (16/16; 100%) cited improvements in American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society scale, visual analog scale, and Foot Function Index. The average complication rate was 4.01%, with the most common complications being mild nerve symptoms and superficial infection. The most common concomitant pathologies included synovitis, osteophytes, meniscoid lesions, and anterior inferior tibiofibular ligament injury. Four studies (15%) failed to report sex as a demographic variable. Only 7 (25%) studies included analysis by sex, with 4 (57%) of these demonstrating differences when comparing outcomes by patient sex. When compared with male patients, female patients exhibited higher rates of traumatic ankle sprains, chondral injury, and chronic ankle instability associated with anterior ankle impingement.

Conclusion: Our systematic review demonstrates that arthroscopic treatment for anterior ankle impingement provides good to excellent functional outcomes, low complication rates, and good return-to-sports rates in both the general and the athletic population. This study also reports a lack of statistical analysis evaluating outcomes comparing male and female populations. The included studies demonstrate that, compared with male patients, female patients have higher rates of traumatic ankle sprains, chondral injury, and chronic ankle instability associated with anterior ankle impingement; therefore, particular attention should be paid to addressing such concomitant pathology.

Keywords: anterior ankle impingement; arthroscopy; athletes; sex.