Severe arthritis of the ankle joint, as with other joints, is the result of progressive wearing down of the layer of articular cartilage that cushions the joint's moving surfaces, ultimately resulting in bone-on-bone grinding with joint motion. This “end stage” arthritis results in pain, combined with loss of function and mobility - severely limiting normal activity. When this end stage is reached and non-operative options (such as medication, injections, and bracing) have been exhausted, total ankle replacement (TAR) may provide relief.
The design and success of total ankle replacement have evolved over many years. As an alternative to ankle fusion, which locks the joint in a fixed position and does not permit ankle motion, ankle replacement replaces the arthritic surfaces with metal and plastic low-friction implants. The primary benefit is pain relief with retained ankle motion.