Ankle Replacement to Treat Arthritis
Spencer Niemann, DPM, FACFAS, a podiatrist board certified in foot surgery as well as rear foot and ankle reconstruction, is on staff at Banner – University Medical Center Phoenix. His office can be reached at (602) 264-1031.
Question: Is it true that an ankle replacement can cure arthritis pain like a knee or hip replacement?
Answer: Yes, ankle replacement is an approved treatment option for individuals suffering the painful effects of certain types of arthritis.
Once considered an experimental procedure, ankle replacement has expanded greatly over the last several years to become a more widely accepted treatment option for those suffering from end-stage ankle arthritis.
Three conditions responsible for virtually all ankle replacements include osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and a previous ankle fracture that negatively changed the way the joint functions.
In the past, treating such conditions consisted of cleaning up the joint, injection therapy and/or bracing the ankle. Most patients eventually find that such conservative treatments don’t provide a long-term remedy and, ultimately, have their ankle joint fused in place as a final treatment option. The loss of mobility and functionality associated with ankle fusion forces to foot, leg and back to compensate for the loss of motion. Many patients complain of further foot pain, knee pain and even back pain from the resulting abnormal walking pattern caused by a loss of ankle joint’s range of motion.
In contrast, ankle replacement procedures result in more normal, pain-free walking. While patients who undergo ankle replacement may not achieve the full range of motion they once had, they can in most cases return to their normal daily activities.
Ankle replacement entails substituting the ankle joint with an implant device similar to knee and hip replacement. However, additional procedures may be needed to correct other foot ailments in order to realign the ankle joints and provide greater stability for the foot and ankle. These additional procedures can usually be completed at the same time as the implant procedure.
Not everyone is a candidate for ankle replacement. Age, weight and other coexisting medical conditions may restrict someone from being eligible for this type of surgery.
Post-operative care for ankle replacement usually entails a few weeks of rehabilitation in a skilled nursing facility. The majority of patients can walk on their new ankle with a medical boot within four to six weeks and walk wearing tennis shoes within eight to 10 weeks.
There are currently four approved ankle implant devices. Work with a surgeon who understands the foot in its entirety and is trained in using each device to ensure the implant used best matches your individual needs.