Ankle arthritis surgeries- An overview

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Ankle is the joint that connects foot to the leg.  It is known as ankle joint or tibiotalar joint. Talus, tibia and fibula are the bones that meet at this joint treated by orthopedic surgeons.  When the ankle joint is damaged as a result of accident or old age a condition known as ankle arthritis occurs. Main symptoms of arthritis are pain and swelling.

When conservative treatments like taking rest, keeping the leg in an elevated position, medication etc are not producing any tangible results orthopedic surgeons may suggest surgical procedures considering the patient’s age, activity level, severity of the arthritis etc.  Normally there are two surgical methods used for ankle arthritis. They are ankle fusion and ankle replacement. Both these methods are discussed in brief in this article.

Ankle fusion

Orthopedic doctors sometimes recommend ankle fusion although it decreases the mobility of the ankle joint considering several other factors related to the disease and the patient. In this surgery, the surgeon blunts the ends of the affected bones. He then attaches them together with the help of plates and screws made of medical grade metals. After few days the damaged bones fuse together and act like a single bone. This procedure has often been found to be successful in relieving the pain caused by arthritis. But the ankle’s motion is reduced considerably. The nearby joints move more to compensate for this inactivity. Ankle fusion surgeries are more suitable for people who follow a less active life style. Ankle fusion surgeries are relatively durable and it requires only lesser restrictions during the period of recovery than ankle replacement surgeries.

Ankle replacement

In this surgery the damaged ends of the bones inside the ankle joints are removed and are replaced by prosthesis made of medical grade plastic or metal. The prosthesis joint help the patient to retain natural movement. There is less risk of spreading the arthritis to nearby joints. The major problem with this method is that it can lead to the loosening of the components. People who have crossed 60 years of age and who are healthy are the most suitable candidates for this type of surgical procedure. Similarly this surgery is very suitable for persons who are significantly obese and who have misaligned ankle bones and for those who are regular tobacco smokers. Orthopedic doctors opine that high energy activities like jumping, running etc is not recommended for patients who have under gone ankle joint replacement surgeries.

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