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Ankle Replacement

What causes arthritis of the ankle?

Arthritis can occur in any joint in the human body. Arthritis is more likely to occur in joints that have been injured or damaged. Some ankle injuries are severe such as broken ankles that require surgery. Other ankle injuries are less severe, such as sprains, but may cause a problem if they occur over and over. Both of these types of injuries can result in ankle arthritis.


What are risk factors for developing ankle arthritis?

  • Obesity
  • Family history
  • Getting older
  • A history of injuries such as fractures or many sprains
  • Rheumatoid disease
  • Infection in the ankle

How is arthritis of the ankle treated?

There are various methods to that can give relief for ankle arthritis.  Over-the-counter pain relief medicines, especially those that reduce swelling such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, can help on a need basis. You might also try good shoes, shoe inserts, pads, and arch supports, physical therapy, and a brace or cane. If these aren’t helping, your doctor may inject medicine, such as a steroid, directly into the ankle joint. This works be reducing the inflammation in the lining of the joint. Some people can have relief that can last from months to years after an injection, especially if the cartilage lining damage of the ankle is not complete.

What is an ankle replacement surgery?

Another treatment for severe ankle arthritis besides fusion is total ankle replacement. In ankle replacement surgery, an artificial ankle joint is implanted to replace the damaged cartilage. There are a number of artificial ankle devices your surgeon can choose from. They are generally made from metal and plastic parts, and are very strong.

Total ankle replacement surgery is a good alternative to ankle fusion surgery in some patients with ankle arthritis. Unlike a fusion, the ability of the ankle joint to move up and down is maintained. This ability to preserve motion is considered an advantage over ankle fusion. But like all joint replacements, an ankle replacement can wear out over time and does not withstand high-impact activity well.

Who should NOT have ankle replacement?

An ankle replacement is not the best option for every patient with ankle arthritis. Ankles that are severely deformed or unstable or have had an infection in the past may be better treated with fusion. Similarly, patients with serious medical problems such as diabetes, obesity, or problems with blood supply are generally not good candidates for ankle replacement.

Who performs an ankle replacement?

Total ankle replacement surgery is a complicated procedure and should only be performed by an orthopaedic surgeon who specializes in it. Recovery from ankle replacement may take 6 to 12 months. There are also risks with ankle replacement. Risks include infection, problems healing the incision, and gradual loosening or wearing out of the metal and plastic. If these complications develop, additional surgery is usually needed.

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