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Ankle Arthroplasty: A Viable Alternative to Fusion

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Medical Directions

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Orthopedics and Rehabilitation

Total ankle arthroplasty has recently emerged as a viable alternative to fusion for patients with severe ankle arthritis that does not respond to conservative treatment. For patients with primary or post-traumatic osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis of the ankle, this can mean significant pain relief, improved mobility and a substantially better quality-of-life.


Ankle arthroplasty has always been less common than hip or knee arthroplasty, but new technology is ushering it into the mainstream.


UW Health's foot and ankle surgeons perform ankle arthroplasty using FDA approved, state-of-art ankle replacement systems. These systems have improved designs that help achieve better alignment and reproducible results.


But even with the most modern device, patient selection is still critical to long-term success. The ideal candidate for total ankle replacement is a patient with severe, debilitating ankle pain from arthritis or cartilage injury. Typical patients tend to be over age 50, have little or no bone deformity and weigh less than 250 pounds. They also must have good blood flow and adequate soft tissue coverage above the ankle.


Although similar levels of pain relief can be achieved with either ankle arthroplasty or fusion, for the right patient, replacement has two key advantages. First, replacement offers better range-of-motion and function than fusion. Second, replacement reduces the amount of stress on adjacent foot joints. This can prevent further degeneration and arthritis, a common long-term complication of ankle fusion.

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