It’s a common form of arthritis that doctors say can cause severe pain.
Dr. Michael Black, a podiatrist with Lee Health, says the ankle joint is supposed to be the primary shock absorber for the foot during walking. “When we lose the shock absorber we get the same amount of stress that then gets pushed forward underneath and above the ankle.
That stress can cause ankle arthritis. “Ankle arthritis is a term that means inflammation of the ankle joint. The treatment historically for end stage ankle arthritis has been ankle fusion. That’s a procedure in which the diseased cartilage and bone is removed from the ankle and screws are placed in the ankle to allow the leg bone to grow to the ankle bone,” said Dr. Black.
Patients typically need ankle fusions every five years. Another treatment option is ankle replacement surgery, which will treat the arthritis and preserve the motion of the ankle for an estimated ten years. “There has been some newer advancement in not only the surgical instrumentation, but in the design implants. That being said, we can position the ankle implant in line with the leg and make very accurate bone cuts that are reproducible,” said Dr. Black.
Unlike an ankle infusion surgery, not every patient qualifies from an ankle replacement. “You cannot have bad blood supply to the ankle or foot, you have to have adequate skin integrity to heal the incisions, you cannot have neuropathy or neurological diseases, your weight can’t be too heavy, patients need to be under 250 pounds, and they can’t have a history of bone infection near the ankle,” said Dr. Black.
Both procedures can improve pain, but take between six and eight weeks to recover. The goal is to get the patient back to a more functional and pain free life.
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