New approaches for treating arthritic ankles is great news for more than 80,000 Americans who are in constant pain and find it hard to even walk. Total ankle replacement is especially becoming a viable option for baby boomers that suffer from debilitating ankle arthritis pain and injury and want to remain active. Ankle fusion has been the gold standard procedure for end stage ankle arthritis in modern medicine. Although this procedure takes away the pain it leaves the ankle stiff and awkward to walk on, and patients are often unsatisfied. Patient satisfaction rates are much higher for total ankle replacement than ankle fusion. Quality of life is improved because form, function, and motion are restored.
Obviously, the person who needs an ankle replacement has pain from arthritis. That person either has a disease like Osteoarthritis, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Post Traumatic Arthritis following an injury or fracture, or their ankle has just worn out. Patients are typically over the age of 50, healthy, and moderately active.
Not every patient is a good candidate for ankle replacement, especially patients with unstable ankles or severe deformities. Advanced age, being overweight, and other medical conditions causing neuropathy may also make you less likely to be a good candidate for ankle replacement.
Ankle Replacement involves the removal of a damaged joint and replacement with an artificial joint (prosthesis) made of metal and plastic to reduce pain and to improve function.
Patients are excited about the results they are achieving because pain relief allows them to retain motion. Patients are able to retain the integrity and shape of their calf muscle and to participate in activities such as walking, biking, exercises, golf, and swimming.
There are three primary types of ankle replacement devices on the market that are FDA approved. This includes the In-bone Total Ankle produced by Wright Technology, the Salto Talaris Anatomic Ankle produced by Tornier, Inc., and the STAR Ankle Prosthesis produced by Small Bone Innovations, Inc.
Ankle arthritis can be addressed by other non-surgical means besides total ankle replacement such as physical therapy, injections, and brace treatment. Other surgical options to consider include arthroscopic or open debridement to clean up a joint or remove bone spurs, distraction arthroplasty (a cleanup procedure as well as stretching the joint apart with an external fixation device), and osteotomies or bone cuts to move a bone in the right position.
There are rare to slight risks of infection, damage to blood vessels, blood clots in legs and lungs, and fracture of the bones at the ankle joint. The most common complications are wound healing problems, nerve injury, and component malposition. Loosening of the ankle joint occurs in roughly ten percent of the cases over a 10 year time frame.
After surgery and rehabilitation you can expect restored mobility, improved function, and reduced pain. It will be easier to walk further without a walking aid and to return to non-impact recreational activities. Roughly 97% of replaced ankle joints are working very well after three years and 90% are working well after ten years in the most recent peer reviewed literature. Quality of life is likely to substantially improve because of this treatment.