Article by Dr. Misako McLeod, DPM
Total Ankle Replacement is a surgical procedure where a destroyed, arthritic ankle joint is replaced with a metallic implant, thereby improving range-of-motion, alleviating pain, and improving mobility and quality of life.
Arthritis is the destruction of the cartilage in the ankle joint that causes severe throbbing “bone-on-bone” pain and limited range-of-motion and mobility. Some patients developed arthritis after a injury such as ankle fracture, crush injury, or car accident. The arthritis worsens over the years and becomes so severe that it significantly affects the patient’s quality of life.
In the past, treatment for these arthritic ankles were bracing and surgical fusion (arthrodesis). That is, the leg bone (tibia) and ankle bone (talus) were fused together so no further motion could occur. This served to eliminate pain, but negatively affected the patient’s gait causing difficulty traversing certain terrains and walking up hills. The patient would also be relegated to wearing a shoe with a rocker sole to accommodate the fused ankle.
Now, patients have other options such as Total Ankle Replacement surgery where the ankle joint is no longer fused, but replaced with a metallic implant. This is similar to knee and hip replacements. It allows the patient to have ankle range-of-motion, flexibility, and the ability to walk with a normal gait.
Of course, not all patients are suitable candidates for ankle replacements. Patients who smoke, obese patients and those with neuropathy and multiple co morbidities may not be suitable candidates.
However, total ankle replacement is a viable alternative to ankle fusion procedures, and implant technology continues to evolve and improve over time.
Dr. Misako McLeod, DPM was trained by Dr. Jack Schuberth, world renowned Total Ankle Implant expert. If you have any further questions about Ankle Replacement Surgery, please ask.