Ankle replacement (also known as ankle arthroplasty) is a surgical treatment for ankle arthritis that relieves pain and preserves movement. Ankle arthritis is the wearing down of the cartilage that cushions the ankle joint. When the cartilage is worn away completely, the result is a painful, bone-on-bone grinding when the joint moves. This is called "end-stage ankle arthritis." When non-operative treatments such as medication, injections and bracing are not providing relief, a total ankle replacement (TAR) maybe the answer.
Ankle arthritis is usually triggered by a high-energy injury, such as one may get in an automobile collision. Less commonly, it can result from long-term wear of the cartilage similar to most cases of hip or knee arthritis. But since trauamtic injury is the most common cause, ankle arthritis affects patients of all ages, even children. As lifesaving airbags became widely available in cars, auto accident fatalities were reduced and doctors began to see a rise in end-stage ankle arthritis in younger patients.
The traditional surgical treatment for ankle arthritis was ankle fusion (arthrodesis). This fuses the bones of the ankle together and has a very high success rate in reducing or eliminating pain. However, it permanently limits a person’s mobility. It makes it harder for people to move up and down stairs, pick up objects from the floor, or even drive a car. It also increases the pressure on other joints in the foot which, over time, can cause arthritis in those areas. For this reason, ankle fusion is not and ideal treatment for younger patients.
Ankle replacement is an alternative that that relieves pain and enables free movement of the ankle. Learn more in the articles and content below or find the best foot and ankle surgeon at HSS for your specific condition.