Kinematics and flexibility properties of both natural and replaced ankle joints are affected by the geometry of the articulating surfaces. Recent studies proposed an original saddle-shaped, skewed, truncated cone with laterally oriented apex, as tibiotalar contact surfaces for ankle prosthesis. The goal of this study was to compare in vitro this novel design with traditional cylindrical or medially centered conic geometries in terms of their ability to replicate the natural ankle joint mechanics. Ten lower limb cadaver specimens underwent a validated process of custom design for the replacement of the natural ankle joint. The process included medical imaging, 3D modeling and printing of implantable sets of artificial articular surfaces based on these three geometries. Kinematics and flexibility of the overall ankle complex, along with the separate ankle and subtalar joints, were measured under cyclic loading. In the neutral and in maximum plantarflexion positions, the range of motion under torques in the three anatomical planes of the three custom artificial surfaces was not significantly different from that of the natural surfaces. In maximum dorsiflexion the difference was significant for all three artificial surfaces at the ankle complex, and only for the cylindrical and medially centered conic geometries at the tibiotalar joint. Natural joint flexibility was restored by the artificial surfaces nearly in all positions. The present study provides experimental support for designing articular surfaces matching the specific morphology of the ankle to be replace, and lays the foundations of the overall process for designing and manufacturing patient-specific total ankle replacements.
- Articular surfaces