Ankle Replacement Provides Relief for Patients with Arthritis

June 30, 2014
Adam Hochron

For patients enduring constant pain in their ankles caused by arthritis, there could be relief on the horizon as medical science works to develop better ankle replacement procedures.

For patients enduring constant pain in their ankles caused by arthritis, there could be relief on the horizon as medical science works to develop better ankle replacement procedures.

Still not as common as hip or knee replacement surgeries more doctors are recommending patients look into ankle replacement rather than ankle fusion or other more traditional remedies. “In ankle replacement, we replace the damaged surfaces of the ankle joint with an artificial implant,” said Jonathan Deland, MD.

As the co-chief of the Foot and Ankle Service at the Hospital Surgery in New York Deland said in a statement that a lot of work has been done to reach this point. “One of the main advantages of ankle replacement is that it provides patients with better movement and mobility compared to ankle fusion, in which bones in the ankle are fused together using metal screws.”

Patients who undergo ankle fusion report experiencing stiffness in the joint which puts more stress on other parts of the foot which could mean arthritis developing in those areas as well. Working with other doctors Deland said the replacements they have developed will benefit patients in many ways. “It is designed to better reproduce the ankle’s natural motion. It is also designed to be longer lasting. It has the proper curvatures like a normal ankle.”

Deland said another advantage to the replacement surgery is that the implant is inserted through an incision in the side of the ankle rather than going in through the front. “The side incision will generally cause less disruption to the soft tissues surrounding the ankle joint and allows for the replication of curved bone surfaces like those in a normal ankle.”

Ankle replacement surgery is recommended for patients with severe pain who have not gotten relief from other treatments like rest, medication and bracing. They must be at least 50-years-old, have good bone quality and foot alignment and cannot have health problems that would slow the healing process.

With such a relatively new procedure Deland said choosing the right doctor to perform the surgery is key for success.

“No surgeon should do only one or two of these procedures per year — they’ll get into trouble mighty fast,” he added. “You have to know about foot alignment, and you have to know the implant. Studies show a steep learning curve when performing total ankle replacement.”