More Patients Opt to Replace Ankle Joints Instead of Fusion

WSJ—November 24, 2014

Replacing hips and knees has become a common affair. Now, people are increasingly swapping out weakened or injured ankles to get back on their feet.

Newer artificial joints can include parts such as mobile bearings that make moving up and down on an incline easier. That helps patients climb stairs, hike, or ski, without putting undue stress on adjacent joints.

Jonathan Deland, MD, co-chief of the foot and ankle service at New York’s Hospital for Special Surgery, says there aren’t enough long-term studies yet to determine a clear winner among ankle devices. Dr. Deland worked on the design of a new ankle replacement model by device maker Zimmer Inc., and says he prefers to use it because its design is more like a natural ankle, with curved rather than flat parts that help dissipate the body’s weight load and make the ankle less likely to loosen or slide from front to back.

Surgeons often work on new designs, and it is important for patients to ask if they have any relationship with a device maker that might influence the choice of ankle hardware. Risks include complications such as infections and blood clots, bone cysts or the failure of the implant to heal into the bone.

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