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When Surgery is the Best Solution for Ankle Pain Caused by Severe Arthritis

When arthritis affects your ankle, surgery is never the first option for treatment. Ankle surgery may be necessary in the case of an injury like a broken bone or severe sprain, but since most forms of arthritis are progressive, it takes time for the joint to deteriorate to the point that conservative treatments no longer produce results. However, for some patients, that day will come, when the damage caused by arthritis requires a surgical solution.

The effects of arthritis on your ankle

Though there are over 100 types of arthritis, the effects on joints is often the same. Cartilage covers the surfaces of bones that interact at a joint, permitting smooth motion. Arthritic conditions cause the cartilage layers to deteriorate, along with other joint damage, leading to direct bone contact that causes inflammation, joint stiffness, and pain.

When arthritis affects your ankle, they can become swollen and stiff, making it difficult to walk or get up from a seated position. Walking on uneven surfaces could become unpredictable. Since your ankles are essential for movement, bearing the load of the rest of your body, pain and restricted movement at this joint can have a major effect on daily living.

Conservative treatment before surgery

If you’re contemplating surgery for an arthritic ankle, then you’ve been through less aggressive treatment. You may have used over-the-counter drugs to combat pain and inflammation, and these could progress to prescription strength.

Physical therapy and lifestyle changes may have helped, too, before the condition advanced to the severe stage. Cortisone or other injection-based treatments are typically the last resort treatments before surgery.

Surgical solutions for arthritic ankles

Once surgery becomes necessary, there are two options that may be available to you. Ankle fusion has the longest history, and total ankle replacement is fast becoming a viable alternative. Let’s look at each.

Ankle fusion

Any fusion surgery removes cartilage between the bones of a joint and then mechanically connects them using plates and screws so that the bone tissue connects, or fuses, and the joint becomes a solid mass. 

This means that the joint no longer has any motion, but in the case of the ankle, this rarely affects your ability to walk. Since there’s no more bone on bone contact resulting from joint movement, there’s no longer any pain. Ankle fusion is the ideal choice if arthritis has caused deformity or bone loss.

Total ankle replacement

As with replacements of the knee or hip, the load-bearing surfaces of the ankle joint are replaced with metal prosthetics, between which a plastic liner provides a low-friction surface on which the prosthetics can easily slide, preserving normal ankle motion. 

If other joints near the ankle are also arthritic, ankle replacement can relieve stresses on those, while fusion may increase the strain on adjacent joints.

When you need ankle surgery, whether you go with fusion or replacement, you want an experienced podiatrist who is up to date with contemporary minimally invasive surgical techniques, like Dr. David Kaplan at FootCare Specialists, Inc. His knowledge of cutting-edge techniques means faster recovery times from surgery.

You can schedule your consultation with Dr. Kaplan at either location of FootCare Specialists, Inc. Call your preferred office or request an appointment using the convenient online booking tool. Free yourself from the shackles of ankle pain and act today. 

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