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Ankle Arthritis Treatment


Normal joints are covered by healthy cartilage which provides a smooth surface for bones to articulate and move gently. Once the cartilage is lost, it does not grow normally again; instead, a different type of cartilage is formed which does not present the same properties. Osteoarthritis is the final process in which normal cartilage is worn away from the joint surface which leads to pain and reduction in movement.
Ankle arthritis usually presents after trauma. Less commonly, it can result from normal wear of the cartilage.
Ankle arthritis can be managed non-surgically with a combination of medication, orthotics and injections with corticosteroids or platelet rich plasma (PRP). In the situation that the pain does not subside, and it becomes debilitating, surgery can be offered.

There are two main surgeries for this condition.
Ankle arthrodesis or fusion, consists of locking the diseased joint transforming a stiff painful joint into a stiff painless joint. This can be performed with a percutaneous or open technique. The surgery consists of removing the remaining diseased cartilage and screwing the joint together, making 2 bones (shinbone and ankle bone) into one. After surgery, patients are not allowed to weight bear for approximately 2 months. Redness and swelling can be present for over 6 months in some cases.
Ankle replacement (also known as ankle arthroplasty) is a surgical treatment for ankle arthritis that relieves pain and preserves movement. It consists of replacing the worn surface with an artificial implant. This technique is becoming more popular in Australia. However, this option it is not recommended for everyone, and the indication for this surgery is analysed case by case.